There's so much John Byrne unpublished material floating around that instead of doing a John Byrne week I decided to dedicate a whole month of Unpublished X-Men to John Byrne material. There's easily enough artwork to do an entire blog of just John Byrne art. To start with, I thought I would introduce the genesis of what later became the New Mutants.
In 1978 John Byrne did this original character design for Kitty Pryde. Below the art John wrote this note to Chris Claremont: "My concept here is that Ariel should be not so much a new member of the X-Men per se, but rather the first member of a second team, a kind of "X-Men in training" team, which could possibly also include that black kid from F.F. 203. They'd all (However many there are - say 5?) wear this modernized version of the original x-costume, and each would occasionally go on missions with the first team. Should the concept prove viable, we might even do "interlude" episodes with these youngsters on missions of their own. The thing to avoid, of course, would be the "Legion of Substitute X-Men" Stigma"
In the book X-Men Companion II, interviewer Peter Sanderson asked John Byrne: "Now, back in the days when she was called Ariel, it seemed you folks were working on a character Caliban. How did that concept evolve?" Byrne replied: "Oh, I was just in a comics shop at one point and I said "Ariel" and somebody said "Caliban" and it was like, "Of course if we're going to have an Ariel, we must have a Caliban." So- (...) He was going to be an incredibly ugly Living Cerebro kind of character, whom we would never see entirely. We would only see bits and pieces of him. And he would live in this dark room in the back of the mansion and Kitty would be able to relate to him for some reason. Chris defined the situation as being that she can't stand Nightcrawler because he is "wrong" somehow, he is a human done sideways, but Caliban was so hideous and so deformed that he was a broken thing, like a bird with a broken wing, and she could relate to him on that level."
Byrne's comments refer to Ariel and Caliban, characters in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Notice that John Byrne's description of Caliban's powers in the above image differ from the powers mentioned in the article.
Caliban appeared as a drastically different character in Uncanny X-Men #148 drawn by Dave Cockrum.
Willie Evans Jr.
Peter Sanderson went on to ask why Caliban was never introduced during John Byrne's tenure on the X-Men, and Byrne replied "Because Shooter killed the concept of a second team of X-Men, the X-Men in training, because he said it sounded too much like the Legion of Substitute X-Men, so it died right there and Kitty became the only one who ever made it into the book. (...) Kitty, Caliban, and Willie Evans Jr, that little black kid who was in the Fantastic Four about three years ago, who made the monstrous versions of the FF, were the only ones we were sure were going to be in it."
Willie Evans Jr. was a mutant who could create and animate solid matter with his mind. He first appeared in Fantastic Four #203 by Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard. There weren't many good images of him in the issue, because in the story he was hospitalized, and had created nightmare versions of the FF while he slept. I have included an image of Willie and one of his creations, Grunt, from the Marvel Phoenix Force Handbook.
The New Mutants as published bears some striking similarities to Byrne's original concept, so much so that John Byrne posted in his forum:
"One slightly amusing -- perhaps even bordering on ironic -- moment that came out of the birth of the New Mutants was Shooter calling me up one day to ask if I intended to "make trouble" over this book. It seemed he actually remembered the idea had originally been mine, and wanted to know if I intended to make any "claim" on the book -- like, for royalties, for instance. I assured him that if Chris promised to make no "claim" on ALPHA FLIGHT, which was also in launch mode at that time, I would make no "claim" on NEW MUTANTS. (Chris' only contribution to Alpha Flight, as some of you may recall, had been the name of the group.)"
The original forum post can be found in this thread:
Of course, the concept of new students was later used in New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod, introducing completely new characters who would form a team that Kitty Pryde refused to be a member of. It's still fun to imagine what could have been if these concepts had been used, since at the time everything Claremont and Byrne had done with the X-Men had been a huge success!