Days of Future Past 101: The X-Men Storyline That Changed The Future of Comics

For a comic storyline that lasted only two issues ("Uncanny X-Men" #141 - #142), “Days of Future Past” has had a gigantic impact not just on the "X-Men" titles, or the Marvel Universe, but comic books and even pop culture as a whole. And that influence is about to felt on an even greater scale, as the sequel to "X-Men: First Class" is titled, you guessed it, "X-Men: Days of Future Past." With that in mind, what exactly happened in this two issue epic, and what has been the long term effect for Marvel’s mutants?

It all began in the future. After the X-Men failed to stop the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from assassinating anti-Mutant politician Senator Robert Kelly. Which you would think would maybe be a good(esque) thing, but it turns out it actually martyred the good Senator, leading to a dystopian future where Mutants are rounded up into internment camps, giant Sentinel robots patrol the skies, and Wolverine is still around because he’s Wolverine.

The hero of the two-parter, though, is Kitty Pryde, who uses a device to send her mind back in time to... Kitty Pryde. There, she’s able to warn the X-Men, they stop the Brotherhood, and time is restored to the happy, carefree, near apocalypse it's been ever since. Except...it wasn’t restored. Instead, the bad future timeline of "DoFP" just continued, albeit in a separate, parallel universe. Why? Because time travel, that’s why.

This story, by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, was far from the first story to play around with the effects of time travel; but the team were in the prime of their storytelling powers, the X-Men were just hitting as the biggest thing in comics, maybe ever; and the emotional resonance of the story was spot on. Even several decades later, "DoFP" stands up as just a really, really good story.

Since then, various characters and ideas have traveled back to the Marvel U, most notably Rachel Summers, the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. In the future timeline, she was a Hound, a mutant tasked with tracking down other mutants. She also became the bearer of the Phoenix Force, broke free, and now tries to make up for her sins by fighting with the X-Men. There was also a guy named Ahab who had a big harpoon and traveled back in time to hunt down everyone from his timeline, in a crossover called Days of Future Present. Oh, and Nimrod, a murderous robot who has wreaked havoc countless times also traveled backwards.

That’s not even counting the innumerable times we’ve seen flashes of the future, resonances of the storyline’s themes, and most notably, apings of Byrne’s iconic cover to #141. "DoFP" is a story that distilled everything people liked about time travel and dystopian storylines, then filtered it through pure, unadulterated superhero comics. To young minds reading the story, it was like sci-fi crack - and is a large part of the story’s lasting appeal.

How it’ll affect the movies - particularly as we’ve already gotten a (fake) glimpse at that future in "X-Men 3," we’ll have to wait and see. Suffice to say, though, that millions of fans will be eagerly watching to find out; and in the meantime, go back and read the original story, which has been collected numerous times. You won't be sorry.