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The Untold Truth Of Demon Bear

If popular media has taught audiences anything, it's that a bear is either going to be cute and comical or fierce and terrifying — and there is no in between, especially according to nature shows and movies. The New Mutants is a movie that will help reinforce the latter, even if it is in the form of an animalistic evil spirit that feels like a dream. "The Demon Bear" is a storyline that happened early on for the new generation of mutants, but it was also one of their most important adventures.

In the grand scheme of things, Demon Bear comes in hot and ferocious as a new threat, but doesn't spend many issues in the limelight — a story in three acts, as it were — before going out with a whimper. A blessing in disguise perhaps, as he isn't left to become a Z-list foe or bog down his legacy with other plots. The bear's first battle with the group is his best, and leaves a strong impact on all involved.

The trailer makes it appear that the New Mutants movie will take its main inspiration from the original comic book source material, but with a lot of changes, like the inclusion of Dr. Cecilia Reyes as a possible villain. But now that the project has a solid release date and fans will finally get to see this X-Men-adjacent horror movie that has been years in the making, there's no better time to go over the comics origins of the frightening malicious entity known as the Demon Bear.

The New Mutants

With Chris Claremont's historic run on the Uncanny X-Men comic underway, he was tasked with creating a new book starring a fresh set of heroes. According to an interview with editor Louise Simonson in Wizard magazine's August 1993 issue, neither she nor Claremont were looking to start another title, but Marvel insisted. The book was different in its characters, but kept many of the themes that were helping push the stories of their adult counterparts along. These upstart holders of the X-gene were young and untrained, but held all of the potential.

Created by Claremont and Bob McLeod, the New Mutants would have several different compositions over the book's various incarnations — even losing their leader early on — but for many, the core team will always be the group that participated in the Demon Bear arc. Cannonball (Sam Guthrie), Sunspot (Roberto da Costa), Magma (Amara Aquilla), Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair), and Magik (Illyana Rasputin) stand alongside Danielle Moonstar (Mirage/Psyche), who is the target of the evil spirit. The team has an eclectic set of powers — including a werewolf — but Magik and Mirage come across as the strongest and most effective against the demonic entity. Though they are strong, the group doesn't trust "the witch" (Magik) and goes into this fight without the help of their mentor, Professor X.

The Demon Bear arc

The Demon Bear makes its first appearance in 1983's The New Mutants #3 with a brief introduction during a strange dream had by Danielle Moonstone, a.k.a. Mirage, during which she removes the mask from her assaulter to reveal a bear. The panel may be a little bit odd, but it did give readers a reason to worry for Mirage, as she says that it is the same spirit that killed her parents. It wouldn't be until New Mutants #17 that the story would truly kick off with a teaser on the final page depicting a white cloud-like spirit telling her to "make thy peace."

New Mutants #18-20 is where the main story takes place. It's only three issues, but a lot happens within those pages. Dani is plagued by the horror inside and pushes herself in the team's training simulator (the "danger room"), eventually journeying out into the snow by herself to take on her tormentor. Just when Mirage believes the monster to be felled, it strikes, living up to its animalistic nature — ravaging her with claws, nearly killing and paralyzing the Cheyenne warrior. If not for Wolfsbane and her connection to Mirage, the team may not have found their teammate in a pool of her own blood in the stark white snow.

The Badlands battle

This puts Mirage in the hospital, clinging to her life as doctors work on her tirelessly. The team knows they are in a vulnerable spot at the medical facility and are concerned for Dani and the other innocents there. Magik begins placing wards of protection while Wolfsbane uses her psychic connection with their fallen comrade to try and get out more information. The Demon Bear makes its move on the team, but struggles with their collective might, so it teleports them all to its own realm — the Badlands — where it gains much more power. They are not alone though, as the Demon Bear has also kidnapped two of the people from the hospital, officer Tom Corsi and nurse Sharon Friedlander. He corrupts their souls, turning them into Native American warriors exploding with evil energy, and would have done the same to Magma if not for Illyana and her soulsword.

A fierce battle commences, with the spirit's shadow growing and covering the land. Things look dire for the heroes until Magik remembers what Dani said about the bear being afraid of her. She tasks Wolfsbane with once again establishing the connection to Mirage, learning that what they need is teamwork. With Illyana's soulsword, Magma's lava, and Cannonball's speed, the team is able to throw the Demon Bear off and slice it in half, rescuing themselves from the alternate realm and freeing Dani's parents, who had been trapped inside the demonic animal form. Mirage would be healed after Professor Xavier called in some favors from the Morlocks, leaving her able to walk again. The team came out of the nightmare stronger, but the unseen scars the Demon Bear left would be remembered.

The horror of it all

It isn't odd to see horror comics or even some of the elements from the genre slipped into various titles in the industry, but it was a surprise to have it appear in an X-Men title. This was especially a different tone compared to the previous adventures of the New Mutants, not because there weren't high stakes in their first few arcs, but that it turned the tables on the team and challenged them in a new way. "The Demon Bear" story presented a much more personal tale of tension and helplessness. One of their members is crippled and dying on a hospital bed after being left out in the snow, bleeding, at the hands of an unknown assailant. Then they are assaulted in a hospital, trapped in the facility by a snowstorm, only to find that most of their attacks just aren't enough against the beast. They are then sent to a strange spiritual world and watch as two of the new faces they met that night are corrupted and turned into the Bear's evil minions, all before the final battle.

It's classic horror at its finest, expressed by the story and the images jumping off of the page. Readers seeing this colossal monster facing off against these kids, intimidating Dani as she's drowned out by his shadow, cements his threatening nature before he takes a single swipe. The style in the art exaggerates this as well, helped by its brutal coloring and jagged lines whenever the evil influence of the bear hits. It was distinct for the time, with issue #18 being artist Bill Sienkiewicz's introduction to The New Mutants. The Demon Bear was brought to life expertly in this arc with a supernatural light in his eyes and stark white claws against its dark body, striking fear.

The strength of the bear

The intimidating presence of the Demon Bear is something to behold. The large figure towers over its opponents and has long sharp claws and teeth, but its size hides how deceptively quick it is, even causing Dani to comment on it during their battle. The villain isn't just supernaturally strong, but can take what should be fatal blows without flinching, shrugging off the deadliest of attacks with ease, making it a threat that is hard to dispatch through physical means. These abilities most likely come through its shapeshifting powers, but that is certainly not all it is capable of.

The Demon Bear feeds off of negative emotions which give him more power the longer he consumes them. The spirit can also teleport to other dimensions, where it appears he is stronger, and enter the dreams or hallucinations of others, as seen with Dani. This makes sense with the more psychic-based powers it shows up with in later issues. Readers also see its ability to corrupt humans, tainting their souls, and turning them into Native Americans in the process. This was an odd creative choice, and even more so to leave the characters that way once the corruption was removed from them. With that strangeness aside, it's easy to see how this monster could be a challenge for anyone not possessing a connection to the spiritual realm or magic.

The other acts

Dani Moonstar would encounter the Demon Bear again, fighting alongside a mostly different group, but this monster was not quite the same as the one the New Mutants vanquished. That fight happens in X-Force #99 after some odd power-altering plot points with a character known as Arcadia DeVille. That incident seemingly helped create the new version of the bear that swallowed the two young women and was unmade from the inside out after a pep talk from a doll.

The Demon Bear would reemerge with a new target, the Native American mutant Warpath, who had ventured to his brother's grave. The spirit had come back just as strong and proved to be too much for Warpath alone, but thankfully he would be saved through a special guest appearance in X-Force #8 by Ghost Rider, who would not only assist the warrior but also help him figure out where the evil entity came from. Eli Bard, a notable X-Men villain, had driven an Apache animal spirit mad by using a black magic dagger that was left lodged in the animal, creating this new incarnation of the Demon Bear.

Finally, the creature would appear in several issues of Uncanny X-Force Vol. 2, having possession of Bishop after some time travel shenanigans and a run-in with Cassandra Nova. This wouldn't last long, though, as the new beast with more psychic-based powers would be driven out by Psylocke. It would not only be defeated, but tamed by the mutant ninja as a protector, leaving the once fierce antagonist to go out as a pawn to both sides, fighting for her and the others before being trapped in another world.

Why Demon Bear works for the New Mutants movie

No one would blame casual comic book fans or those who just love the movies for not knowing who Demon Bear is, but in a way, that's why he's an ideal antagonist for the New Mutants film. This is a villain that many aren't aware of, might not see coming if they haven't analyzed the trailer, and won't know the extent of his powers or true purpose. Even for those who are in the know, the script looks to have deviated from the comics a good bit and will most likely have a surprise or two for everyone, using the source material as a solid base template.

It seems reasonable to expect Demon Bear's film version to be a one-off baddie of mystical nature with someone behind his creation, with the spirit potentially being an unwilling slave or accidental creation, as it was in so many of the stories. Originally, it was unknown who or what created the Demon Bear, corrupting William and Peg Lonestar into the vile creature that would hunt their daughter, but Eli Bard is a good candidate for a true mastermind. If the writers weaved in some of the distrust the team was going through at the time in the books, the proper horror elements and visuals, with a good end fight, the Demon Bear could be a new fan favorite and may even rise in the pages of the comics once again to reassert his dominance and fear.