(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
20th Century Fox’s The New Mutants has officially been delayed — again — until August of 2019, while the studio’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix has also been pushed back to next February. It’s unwelcome news for fans, who have been anticipating The New Mutants – and its possible adaptation of a classic Marvel Comics storyline – since the first teaser trailer debuted in October of 2017 and kept them guessing about the plot.
According to official sources, the film will be about a group of young mutants “too dangerous to be unsupervised” who band together in order to escape a secret facility where their abilities are being tested by clandestine researchers. But as the teaser trailer made its way around the Internet, steely-eyed fans began to notice imagery directly inspired by an early story line in the original New Mutants comic book known as “The Demon Bear Saga.” And it seems New Mutants star Charlie Heaton has read the story, name-checking it as an obvious choice and good to boot.
When Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Heaton on the red carpet for the Stranger Things panel at PaleyFest in Hollywood on Sunday, he was asked how much of the comic book series he read in preparation for his role as Sam Guthrie, the mutant also known as Cannonball. His response: “I read quite a few of them, but obviously [the] Demon Bear/Bill Sienkiewicz franchise of comics was good to read.”
Sienkiewicz, a prolific comic book artist with an unusual graphic style, made his debut on the series with “The Demon Bear Saga” and the issues leading up to the tale. The story focuses on the team’s co-leader Dani Moonstar, a Native American mutant with the ability to create illusions based on her opponent’s fears.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)
As the story begins, Moonstar – then known as “Mirage” – suffers from a recurring dream in which her missing parents are mauled by a giant, demonic bear. While fighting holographic bear simulations in the X-Men’s storied Danger Room, the real Demon Bear appears and mauls her. She is rushed to a nearby hospital, where the Demon Bear attacks the staff and Moonstar’s fellow New Mutants, sending them into a Ralph Steadman-esque nightmare dimension known as The Badlands. The creature is only defeated when Moonstar’s teammate Magik uses her “Soulsword” against it.
In November of 2016, a visual effects animatic depicting Magik fighting a giant bear surfaced online; leading many to suspect the film would adapt “The Demon Bear Saga.” No one involved in the production commented at the time, but Heaton calling it a a good choice for reading material suggests that the film will indeed adapt the story. Or, at the very least, take significant inspiration from it.
Since the movie is being positioned as a horror film with X-Men characters — Blu Hunt stars as Moonstar, along with Anya Taylor-Joy as Magik, Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane, Heaton as the aforementioned Cannonball, and Henry Zaga as Sunspot — the darker nature of the story and terrifying quality of Sienkiewicz’s art definitely seems like appropriate material for an X-Men spinoff looking for a distinct tone. It remains to be seen how faithfully the film will adapt the source, however, as the delay created an opportunity to reshoot some of the film and add an additional character to the story.