Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Raising Hellions

If you've never heard of the Hellions, join the club.

So who are the Hellions anyway?

The Hellions were created by Chris Claremont exclusively as a foil for his New Mutants, the "baby" X-men (in training) at Charles Xavier's Institute for Gifted Youngsters. Run by the Hellfire Club (hence the HELLish name) and posing as another prestigious New England academy (amazing that the only two boarding schools for young mutants in the world happened to be within an hours drive of each other) the Hellions members were almost exclusively darker versions of the New Mutants, with similar powers (ahh...Claremont, you and your thin veils). Without going into too much detail, here's a breakdown of a few:

Jetstream = Cannonball (Transportation)
Tarot = Mirage (Illusionist)
Catseye = Wolfsbane (Feral Animal powers)
Empath = Karma (Mind Controller)
Thunderbird II = Sunspot (Strength)

The Hellions had lousy costumes, and silly powers (like Tarot's ability to conjure up real life facsimiles of Tarot cards to ride around on like a giant MUTANT PRIDE parade float) so it's no wonder they never caught on.

Perhaps the Hellion's biggest claim to fame was the inclusion of Angelica Jones in their roster. Better known as Firestar from Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Jones is one of the few characters (like Harley Quinn, or the X-men's Morph) to make the jump from cartoon to comic.

The Hellions never garnered much attention because they existed as throwaway characters - meant to give the X-themed high school mutants a "frenemy" sort of school rivalry and show the heroes what they could have been like if they embraced their darker side, a storyline explored when some of the teens were forced to transfer schools.

It's because of their disposable nature that perhaps the Hellions made the biggest contribution to comic books as their deaths in Uncanny X-men #281 (1991) at the hands of mutant hunter Trevor Fitzroy.

This act of schoolhouse violence spurred Emma Frost, the Hellion's headmistress into some of the best character growth and development, turning her from a two dimensional totally evil sex pot themed villain into a complex guilt ridden somewhat evil sex pot anti-hero.

Oddly enough, she never wore black while in mourning.

The spoiled poster and set list for GSX reveals a number of the Hellions will be on board for the newest HeroClix set including: Cannonball, Cypher, Empath, Tarot and Roulette, with the hint of repainted sculpts as LEs to further round out the team. So far reactions have ranged from cool, to who?! to I could care less.

One thing that seems to have escaped most player's attention about the Hellions filling such a large portion of a HeroClix expansion is the expect anything nature of Neca/Wizkids. Who ever would have thought so much attention would get devoted to such one-hit-wonders, a pure throwaway team if there ever was one.

The Hellions only had a handful of appearances from their first in 1984 to the team's decimation a short 7 years later. With only 9 appearances in as many years in the title that introduced them (New Mutants), and 3 appearances in the title that wrote them off (UXM), along with a mere handful of sightings in other series (the Firestar Mini-series),

The team literally had more fame after their death than while they lived, and more screen time in flashbacks than when they operated.

Heck, they never even had the popularity to warrant their own monthly title. It comes as a shock and surprise then, that the Hellions are a large part of the Giant Sized X-men expansion.

By including the Hellions the Wizkids crew is sending a message loud and clear - there's no hero or villain to small or too obscure to escape their attention. Fans of obscure teams and line-ups can keep hope alive. The Legion of Substitute Heroes? The Inferior Five? Who knows, maybe the next DC set will include both, which might be enough for some fans to raise a little hell over.