January 21, 2022

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #83: Skin

There's a fine line between a faulty mutant power and a nearly useless one.

One of the reoccurring ideas in various X-Men storylines and with various characters is that mutant powers are often as much a curse as a blessing, and there’s no guarantee that no matter how cool or awesome a set of superpowers looks that it will work right and not cause as many problems as it solves.  That’s the basic idea behind Rogue and Cyclops’ respective powers, for example.

Another idea is some mutant powers aren’t very useful at all.  The Morlocks, for example, often had powers that were in many cases useless and often just made the mutant ugly.

But what if a power was not meant to be useless but turns out to be anyway?  That may be what happened in the case of a Generation X member codenamed Skin.

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For starters, Generation X was another attempt at a “New Mutants” type team.  The original New Mutants had all more or less grown up, so another team of younger mutants was set up in their place, including prominent X-Man Jubilee and New Mutant Cannonball’s younger sister Husk, who, under the tutelage of Emma Frost and the former X-Man Banshee, would be trained to use their powers and whatever else it is that happens in mutant schools.

One of these newer mutants was a fellow code-named Skin.  Born Angelo Espinosa, Skin had, well, extra skin.  Like, an extra six feet of it that could be molded or whatnot.  That sounds…kinda gross actually.

He smoked, too.
He smoked, too.

Skin’s, well, skin was a gray color, and the extra stuff made him look rather wrinkly and older than he actually was.  And that’s about all you need to know.  A former member of a Los Angeles street gang, because he wasn’t enough of a stereotype, Angelo joined the team of New Mutants 2.0 and as is always the case that team had scrapes and scares and the like when it was supposed to be just learning how to use their powers.  The book was prominent enough to get itself a TV movie as a potential pilot that the Fox network aired once.  And Skin was one of the characters that made the jump to the TV version, alongside a Caucasian version of Chinese-American mutant Jubilee and a few others.

Here he is.
Here he is.

Does anything in that picture strike you as wrong?  Here’s another one from the TV movie that shows Skin having a disastrous game of football with another transfer from the comics, Mondo.

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OK, here’s the problem:  that’s not how his power worked.

See, Skin has six feet of extra, malleable skin.  But the rest of him?  Doesn’t really stretch.  His muscles and bones and whatnot are the same as a normal person’s.  He just has all this extra skin.  That actually greatly limits a person’s stretching ability if you think about it.  Now, simplifying it for a potential TV series is one thing, but comic writers who realized this saw Skin’s powers as being a bit limiting.

And then he died.

After the Generation X book ended, the cast was scattered to the four winds, and when the Church of Humanity left a bunch of crucified mutants on the X-Men’s front lawn, Skin was one of them.

I’ve mentioned that incident and those villains before, back when this column covered Magma.  And though other mutants from that attack survived, Skin was not so lucky.  Survivor Jubilee wishes she had taken Skin up on a offer of sex…though it wasn’t expressed in a manner that classy.  Writer Chuck Austen should be remembered for two things during his X-Men run.

  1. He couldn’t go one issue without someone at least mentioning sex.
  2. That run really sucked.

By the by?  Worst sex reference in a Chuck Austen issue of X-Men?  That would be when Angel and barely legal Husk have sex in mid-air in full view of her mother, though off-panel for the reader.  You stay classy, Chuck Austen.

But what happened to Skin?  Well, the local cemetery refused burial for him because it was against the local’s religious beliefs to let a mutant be buried there.  That’s, like, sledgehammer to the skull levels of obvious even by X-Men‘s allegorical standards.  I’d love to see where that bunch’s translation of the Bible came from.

Really, stay classy, Chuck Austen.

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