With the roll call of Fox's New Mutants confirmed, I've begun a series exploring the comic book history of the characters. You can check out my first post - which discussed the mutant sorcerer Magik - here, but today it's time to look at another of Marvel's most popular mutants: Sam Guthrie, better known as Cannonball!
Cannonball's Origin and Powers
Created in 1984 by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod, Cannonball is the eldest of a large Kentucky coal mining family. He's not the only one of the Guthrie children to develop mutant powers; his sisters Paige and Melody took up the codenames Husk and Aero, his brother Jay became the X-Men's Icarus, and another brother Jeb developed a variation of optic-blasting powers!
A natural leader, Cannonball is a good-natured guy who always thinks the best of people. He has the power to generate a thermal energy field around himself; he can use this field to launch himself into flight (like a rocket), or to project powerful energy blasts. When surrounded by his blast field, Cannonball is famously "well-nigh invulnerable". To give a sense of how powerful this blast field is, Cannonball actually traded blows with Gladiator, an analogue of Superman who leads Marvel's Shi'ar Imperial Guard - and he came out on top!
The New Mutants
Charles Xavier recruited Cannonball as one of his New Mutants, intending to train them to be the next generation of the X-Men. The New Mutants immediately launched into adventures of their own, though, developing a fierce rivalry with the White Queen's rival mutant students, known as the Hellions.
Considering that the New Mutants were essentially a bunch of teenagers thrust together into an intense ongoing battle against prejudice, aliens, Sentinels, and evil mutants, it's no surprise that their love lives became pretty troubled. Although Cannonball's first kiss was the Hellion (who would become a superhero) Firestar, his first real relationship was with rock star teleporter Lila Cheney. This association took the New Mutants across time and space; they had adventures everywhere from ancient Scotland to Asgard!
Ultimately, though, the cost of superhero life began to take its toll on the New Mutants. Xavier was believed dead, and Magneto was put in charge of the team; Cannonball in particular chafed under Magneto's heavy-handed approach. Worse still, the cosmic Beyonder killed the New Mutants, only to resurrect them; the team were all left deeply traumatized by this experience. After one particularly nasty incident was believed to have caused Lila's death, Cannonball led the team in rejecting Magneto's leadership and going their own way.
The New Mutants entered a time of change, with new members such as Boom-Boom (who Sam was attracted to). Most significantly of all, though, after another quest to immortal Asgard, the New Mutants encountered a powerful warrior known as Cable. The team ultimately agreed to work with Cable against the Mutant Liberation Front, a dangerous terrorist mutant group, and took up a new team-name: X-Force. Cable and Cannonball would develop a strong father-son relationship, with hints that Cable had only travelled to this time in order to tutor Sam. In a plot that's pretty much been forgotten, it was revealed that Cannonball was an 'External' - a rare type of mutant who is immortal. Although the relationship between X-Force and the X-Men would be a difficult one (especially after Cable was believed to have attempted to assassinate Professor Xavier), Cannonball was key in uniting the teams.
The First Graduate
In a remarkable achievement, Cannonball was ultimately invited to 'graduate' into the ranks of the X-Men. Thrilled at the opportunity, he stepped up to the task - but the experience shook his confidence, and he made a lot of rookie mistakes. Sam finally left the X-Men to return home to look after his mother, but was drawn back into their world when he was asked to go undercover among the ranks of anti-mutant figures.
This began a period of turbulence in Cannonball's life. He returned to X-Force, even leading the team, but they were ultimately forced to fake their own deaths; from there, he became a member of an international peace-promoting enterprise known as X-Corps. This ended in tragedy when his teammate Darkstar died on a mission, and soon Sam had left the ranks of superheroes once again. Rekindling his old relationship with Lila Cheney, he eventually found his way back to the X-Men.
The Tragedies of Sam Guthrie's Life
The world became a dark place for the mutant race. The Scarlet Witch, her mind crumbling under a demonic onslaught, launched a spell that depowered the vast majority of the world's mutants. Anti-mutant forces used this as an opportunity to press in with extreme prejudice, slaughtering countless ex-mutants; Cannonball's younger brother Jay died at the hands of the malevolent Reverend Stryker. When Rogue chose to take her team away from the Mansion, Sam gladly took the opportunity to go with her - every time he walked through the door of the Mansion, he felt as though he was stepping on Jay's grave.
The X-Men were briefly disbanded, but soon reformed - based in San Francisco, with Cyclops attempting to unite the mutant race. Cannonball swiftly became team leader of the reunited New Mutants, beginning a romance with the depowered ex-mutant Dani Moonstone. When the X-Men schismed, half heading back to Westchester, Sam chose to return to the school as a teacher.
Cannonball Becomes an Avenger!
In a dramatic step up, Cannonball was inducted as a member of the Avengers! This took him to the front lines of many cosmic events, and led to repeated encounters with Smasher, a member of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. The two began a relationship, and even had a child together! Seeking to keep the family together, Cannonball headed off to Shi'ar space for a while.
He's recently returned to help his old friend Sunspot out in the pages of New Avengers, and has been confirmed as a key player in the up-and-coming U.S.Avengers comic!
- Roll-Call: Meet the Superheroes of Fox's 'New Mutants'!
- Meet the New Mutants: The Comic Book History of Magik!
- Celebrating 25 Years of Marvel's X-Force!
As you can see, Cannonball's had a long and complicated history. He's a passionate, well-natured character who has a bit of an eye for the ladies, and his presence is sure to add a great deal of angst to Fox's New Mutants movie. We're yet to hear any casting details, but it's going to be good to see Samuel Guthrie on the big screen!
Who do you think should be cast as Cannonball? Let me know in the comments!