Back in the early ’80s, Uncanny X-Men was the chart-topping hit for Marvel Comics. At the time, Marvel didn’t have a lot of X-Men spinoffs on the stands. The very first spinoff was The New Mutants, created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod. Some fans, and even a few X-Men characters, called them “the X-Babies.” However, artist Bill Sienkiewicz helped change the perception of the book, the team, and even the comic medium itself when he joined Claremont for the now famous Demon Bear Saga.
“I just wanted to push it even more,” said Sienkiewicz. “The initial sketch I did was the one that became the ad, which was ‘Don’t call them X-Babies anymore!’ That was my very first drawing I did of the characters. I don’t know why, but I started kind of making them older in some ways… I still tried to make them kids, at the same time I was trying something different [and] crazy approaches with the art style.”
Although Claremont had to personally lobby Sienkiewicz to come on board, their initial three-issue tale quickly became a much longer run together. Comic readers at the time weren’t entirely sure what to make of it, since Sienkiewicz and Claremont had introduced a horror element to The New Mutants that wasn’t there before. It was polarizing for some, but it also led to some innovative stories by the duo.
Director Josh Boone was so taken by The Demon Bear Saga that it’s also the basis for the upcoming New Mutants film. Sienkiewicz was invited to visit the set of that movie, but he ended up contributing more than just a cameo appearance. Sienkiewicz is also eager for fans to finally see The New Mutants, which was recently delayed (again) due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For more New Mutants memories from both Sienkiewicz and Claremont, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel!