The Ex-Mutants. Artist: Ron Lim.

EX-MUTANTS

Original medium: Comic books
Published by: Eternity Comics
First Appeared: 1987
Creators: David Lawrence (writer) and Ron Lim (artist)
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In the 1980s, between the time the advent of the Direct Market lowered the bar on comics publishing, and when the inevitable winnowing-down of new publishers raised it back up, it seemed like practically any goofy scenario could make it in comic book stores. That was the time of Ninja High School, Dinosaurs for Hire and other off-the-wall comics series — the epitome of which was, of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While some sold fairly well, at least for a little while, there were very few pre-sold concepts among them. Perhaps the closest they came was …

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Ex-Mutants, which used a play on words to simulate a connection with Marvel's popular X-Men franchise, while no such connection actually existed.

The wordplay was to connect "ex", meaning "former", with the mutant theme of the X-Men titles. But that meant the characters had to be former mutants; and since mutancy tends to be a lifelong condition, that required a certain amount of improbable manipulation of the stars.

To make the words work, most people had to be mutants, or the fact that the title characters are ex-mutants wouldn't be notable enough to be worth mentioning even in a 1980s comic book. So the backstory included a particularly virulent war in which a majority the world's population were mutated into an undesirable form — not benign mutation like some superheroes are mutants, but mutations like you might find in Judge Dredd.

A scientist, Dr. Emmanuel Cugat (scientific specialty unmentioned — he could have been anything from a nuclear physicist to an evolutionary biologist) de-mutated a few as only a comic book scientist, especially a generic one like him, can. He resequenced their DNA, whatever that means, "restoring" them to a humanity they'd never before known. Never mind the fact that DNA works by directing an organism's development, but can't rearrange an already-developed one.

By the way, Cugat's own most noticeable mutation was a third eye.

Cugat's subjects included four women (Erin, Angela, Vikki and Lorelei) and one man (Belushi). The gender imbalance was supposedly because their main mission was to repopulate the world with genetically normal humans, and one man can easily keep four women producing babies steadily. But since the women didn't spend all their time pregnant, one can infer there must have been another reason. It probably has something to do with the fact that women in tight costumes appeal to the adolescent males who buy most comic books, more than do plain ol' men.

Whatever their mission might have been, it was opposed by the hideously mutated Great Fred. He and his minions provided the opposition necessary to produce the conflict that drove the stories. Fred's motivations weren't clear, but he did function as the arch-nemesis that kept the series running.

The series was created by writer David Lawrence, whose work was just starting to appear in comics, and who didn't pursue a career in the field. The artist was Ron Lim (The Badger, Hero Alliance). They had an assist from editor David Campiti (Innovation Publishing, Sirius Entertainment). The publisher was Eternity Comics (The Trouble with Girls, Evil Ernie), one of a small cluster of related publishers. The date of the first issue was December, 1987.

There followed a legal dust-up among several of those publishers, leading to the series switching to another, Pied Piper Comics (The New Humans, a play on Marvel's The New Mutants, a series related to this one). Over the next few years, it made the rounds of those related publishers, such as Amazing (Jack Frost, Wabbit Wampage) and maybe a couple of others. What with one thing and another, about 20 or 30 issues came out during the remainder of the 1980s.

In all that shuffling around, the series creators seem to have gotten shuffled right out of the deck. Other creative personnel who worked on it include Jim Balent (Batman), Mike Witherby (The Ghost Rider), Rob Liefeld (The Avengers) and more.

In 1992, it was revived by another of those publishers, Malibu (The Protectors), which published 18 more issues. But the X-Men non-connection couldn't sustain it any longer, and that was the end of it.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Eternity Comics.