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35 What's the relationship between Cable, Stryfe, Ahab, and Nate Grey?


This article is from the X-Men Comic Books FAQ, by Kate the Short (racmx@yahoo.com) with numerous contributions by others.

35 What's the relationship between Cable, Stryfe, Ahab, and Nate Grey?

It's important to remember two basic things about Cable: he was created
much later than his vastly rewritten history would make him seem, and
the person who created him (Rob Liefeld) didn't set out to make him
anything in particular other than a cyborg with a big gun (history has
shown how such a character is appealing to Liefeld).

When Liefeld landed the job as new penciller for the New Mutants, he
immediately sat down and started sketching out new characters. He sent
them off to his editor, Bob Harras. Easily visible among the detritus
are most of the Mutant Liberation Front, and the two characters who
would become Cable and Stryfe. (Marvel Age #81 and #82 show some of
these early sketches.)

Walter Simonson, husband of then-NM-writer Louise Simonson, recalled the
design process in a message on racmx:

The design for Cable [was] originally one of several designs Rob
did for a villain (designs done for Stryfe IIRC). Bob Harras liked
the design as did Weezie and asked if they couldn't make a good guy
out of him. Weezie was already working on creating a new leader for
the New Mutants (something Bob was also interested in) and the
military background/attitude was always intended to be a part of
the character. Weezie was tired of the Prof. X attitude of whiny
leadership that was always agonizing over sending the New Mutants
into harm's way and thought that an interesting story direction
would be to create a leader who knew the score, understood the
dangers, and would in fact view the NMutants essentially as
soldiers, being sent into battle.

Interestingly enough, in an interview in Wizard #10, Liefeld states that
he gives co-creation status of Cable to Bob Harras:

I've told Bob Harras that if anyone should share creator credit on
Cable with me, it's him. Bob told Louise, "I want this character in
there." I can understand that she didn't want the character, but
the book was dying. [Snip to further down the paragraph.] I realize
the writer wasn't pleased with what happened, but there was a
reason for all of it; it wasn't just, "Let's make life hell for the

I wish I had this on the record: Bob said to me, "I want to bring
in a new central figure; make him a new teacher for the Mutants.
Give him, maybe, a bionic eye." I took that and sent him four
sketches--incorporating a bionic arm, the eye, everything. Bob
said, "Let's call him Quentin." I said, "Yucch!" I had already put
Cable down as his name on the sketches. Then in Louise's plot,
after being told his name was Cable, he was called Commander X
throughout. I said, "If this guy is called Commander X, I want
nothing to do with it." That seemed ridiculous to me.

In any case, the beginning designs weren't of Cable's background and
previous life; they were kewl designs based around a bionic eye.

According to Liefeld, the original sketch of Cable did include some
characterization, attached on a character profile:

The profile clearly identified him as a traveler from thousands of
years in the future who journeyed back in time to combat specific
menaces in the past that threatened the future of the Marvel
Universe. The menaces he had targeted were intended to expand the
title outside the mutant spectrum, and Dr. Doom and Kang the
Conqueror were chief among the threats I had suggested. I felt it
was necessary for Cable to face non-mutant nemeses in order to
increase his importance in the grand scheme of things. I was
determined to create a character with as much mystique and interest
as Wolverine and was deliberately mapping out a lineage that would
capture the attention of readers everywhere. He was a man of
mystery, a man with a mission that would slowly reveal itself over
the course of several years.

Cable was introduced in Liefeld's first issue of the New Mutants (#87),
as the not-yet-then tired idea of a mysterious mutant mastermind who has
been behind the scenes for years, but who we, the readers, have somehow
just never managed to see yet. He took over the leadership of the New
Mutants straight off, and we learned that he had an archenemy, called
Stryfe, whose face was always concealed by a pointy helmet. When the
word came down that New Mutants was going to be turned into X-Force,
with Rob Liefeld as its plotter/penciller, it was decided that a neat
way to end the New Mutants would be to unmask Stryfe for that dramatic
final panel. The only trouble was, nobody knew who he was really
supposed to be, so they didn't know what his shocking secret identity
should be.

Liefeld provides some additional insight into the process:

I also created an adversary for Cable named Stryfe who would test
him to the absolute limits of his abilities and help define him and
his struggles by being a formidable foe, the likes of which the New
Mutants had never really seen. I offered several considerations for
Stryfe's origin, one of them being that underneath all that armor
was a woman. Ultimately, the idea that Stryfe was actually Cable
seemed to offer more in the way of interesting story opportunities,
and Bob encouraged me to follow that path. It was the right move
and it helped catapult Cable's popularity to new heights.

So, there they were. Stryfe and Cable were now twins.

Around about this time Claremont was briefly writing X-Factor (#65-68)
(although under Whilce Portacio's plots). The son of Cyclops and
Madelyne Pryor, Nathan Summers, had by this time become a small plot
embarrassment (after all, it was tough to have Cyclops mooning over Jean
Grey again when he had a baby boy by his previous marriage to worry
about). Chris Claremont had never really liked the tot, and apparently
most of the readers shared his sentiments, so in a plot involving
Apocalypse and the Moon, Nathan came down with a techno-organic virus,
and was only barely saved when a visitor from the future, Askani, zapped
him up the timestream to save him with her futuristic medicine (X-Factor
#68). The reason? Nathan would become important to saving a bunch of
mutants in the future, so she couldn't let him die in the present.

Ken Arromdee reminded us to include here the folk legend of the Marvel
edict against having main characters of their superhero titles with
young children. Supposedly because their target audience will not
identify with such people, creators are strongly discouraged from having
any major characters with young children. A quick rundown of the major
births in Marvel, with perhaps the sole exception of Crystal and
Pietro's Luna, shows how strong this apparent edict is. It's highly
possible that the Nathan/Askani storyline came about from this pressure
as well.

Around about here Cable was revealed to be from the future. Since Nathan
was now in the future, it wasn't too far to suggest that Cable was
really Nathan. Of course, since Stryfe was obviously connected to Cable
somehow, now the question became "Which of the two was really Nathan?"
According to Liefeld, he'd been thinking that Stryfe was baby Nathan:

So imagine my surprise when I received a call from Bob Harras,
informing me that he, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio had crafted a
story that would reveal that Cable was the son of Scott Summers and
Madelyne Pryor. I politely protested and asked Bob repeatedly to
reconsider what I felt was a decision that would be damaging to the
character in the long run. It became very clear that my protests
would go unheeded and I reminded myself that Cable was not my
character; he belonged to Marvel and I needed to accept that and
make the best of a frustrating situation. I chose to never address
the issue in the titles I was invested in and continued to work
hard to create an element of intrigue around Cable, even though it
seemed futile after the mystery surrounding Cable's true identity
had evaporated without my consultation.

Now a neutral observer would probably point out at this time that this
whole mess could have been avoided if these lads had been created with
the usual backgrounds most writers give their characters: you know, like
who they are. But that wasn't the hand that the X-writers had dealt
themselves, and X-readers had no end of fun watching a bunch of
plotlines swirl and weave about whether Cable was Stryfe's clone, or
vice versa, or how maybe they were both clones, or maybe they had
nothing to do with Nathan at all.

Fabian Nicieza provides another insight into the process:

To this day, I don't know how that all came about. I don't know if
it was a Jim/Whilce idea that they ran by Bob and he okayed and
cajoled Rob into agreeing to, etc. Or what. I just know by the time
I got involved in it, we all had pretty much accepted that would be
the working plan.

My original thinking was that Cable would be the clone and Stryfe
the real one, leading to more pathos for Cable and more tragedy for
Cyclops, but Bob and Scott both felt making them THINK that was the
case and then switching it around later would work better and I
quickly came to agree they were right.

So, finally, in issues of Cable written by Nicieza, most of the answers
were provided. As revealed by Sinister, Cable was indeed Nathan
Christopher Charles Summers (Cable #6), and the cyborg parts were
actually those parts of his body infected by the technovirus, which he
held in check with his telekinetic powers. Stryfe was his clone.

We'll side-track for a moment to mention Ahab. Ahab was the Master of
the Hounds from the "Days of Future Past" future--the one that Rachel
Summers was from. Hounds are mutants with powers useful for tracking
other mutants, who are controlled substances in that timeline. Back
when Cable still didn't have a past, Ahab was introduced in the Days
of Future Present crossover (Fantastic Four Annual #23, X-Factor Annual
#5, New Mutants Annual #6, X-Men Annual #14). During one fight scene
Cable and Ahab got close to one another, and Cable was shocked to see
some similarity to himself in Ahab. This was compounded by having Ahab
say: "What's the matter? See someone you know?" (X-Men Annual #14).

Since Cable was later revealed to be Nathan instead of Ahab, a new past
for Ahab was needed. A new character introduced in Excalibur #72, Rory
Campbell, was obviously intended to end up becoming Ahab, thus freeing
Cable from that unneeded bit of history. To that end, Rory lost his leg
(Excalibur #90) and became Mutant Liason for the British authorities
(Excalibur #101).

Back to Stryfe. By himself, Stryfe presented quite a few problems,
because he Just Wouldn't Stay Dead. Stryfe was first killed at the end
of X-Cutioner's Song. He then reappeared as a consciousness in Cable's
mind during the Sons and Fathers crossover between X-Men and Cable
right after the X-Cutioner's Song (circa Cable #6-8). Where he died
again, sort of. Stryfe then was seen in Hell years later in X-Force
#74, and his later appearances, alongside dead Dark Riders, were
assumed to have been a past version of Stryfe. Until, you know, he
popped up more regularly. Again. Like in the Blood Brothers crossover
between Cable and X-Man. Anyway, Stryfe is now apparently truly dead,
since he was killed in Gambit and Bishop: Sons of the Atom #6 by Dark
Beast, having his entire body crumble into bones and ash. Again.

Back to the last part of the question: Nate. Go grab some refreshment
or something now, you've been sitting long enough reading this answer.
In the 1995 Age of Apocalypse crossover, for reasons too bizarre to get
into now, Cable ceased to exist. In the AOA timeline, his counterpart
was Nate Grey, called the "X-Man". Nate, who shares a name that fans of
the X-titles should recognize as being a warning bell, was a genetic
construct of the Mr. Sinister of that timeline. Once again, for various
reasons that you had to be there to deal with, Nate was one of the few
survivors of the Age of Apocalypse that made it into the normal
timeline. On top of this, Cable reappeared with the resurgence of the
original timeline, so for a while we had, in one way or an other, two
(and a half, counting the psyche of Stryfe) versions of Scott and
Madelyne's son roaming around the Marvel Universe, none of which was
actually native to that universe. I don't think Hallmark prints enough
cards for there to be enough for Scott Summers to send one to each of
his relatives on Christmas.

Nate Grey, at least, was easily distinguishable by his name, and the
fact that he was at least 20 years younger than the others. He was also,
just to be nitpicky, the son of Scott and Jean (albeit by test tube),
not Madelyne.

Nate eventually came to realize the "Madelyne Pryor" whom he had known
since coming to this dimension was actually planning to use him as a
weapon. During the time he tried to free himself, he met another
dimension's Nate Grey, who helped to free his mind. Nate became a mutant
shaman, and spent his time traveling all over the world helping mutants
in need. X-Man came to an end with issue 75, in which Nate sacrificed
himself to save the world. Basically, he dissipated himself and another
being into every cell of every being on Earth, in order to stop alien
seeders from controlling it.


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