X-Men: Apocalypse does not adapt any particular X-Men story from the comics. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t include references to specific comic books. Mostly that comes in the form of character origins and costume details. There’s a few clever references tucked in there, too. Let’s take a closer look. Spoilers for the movie, obviously.
Apocalypse isn’t actually ever called Apocalypse in this movie. Instead he’s called his Egyptian name, En Sabah Nur. Marvel writers intended this to be Arabic for “the first one” but they didn’t translate it very well. It more literally translates to something like “good morning” but that’s not very threatening. Apocalypse first appeared in X-Factor #5 (June, 1986). Writer Bob Layton originally intended the shadowy big bad for the book to be revealed as Daredevil enemy The Owl but editor Bob Harras wanted a new character that was much more powerful and Louise Simonson and artist Jackson Guice more or less whipped up Apocalypse. The name En Sabah Nur first appeared in Cable Vol. 1 #6 (December, 1993).
In the comics Apocalypse has MANY superpowers including: immortality (or at least the ability to enter a coma-like sleep to heal), super strength, super reflexes, near invulnerability, telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, bio-molecular ability to transform, force fields, energy blasts, his blood can rewrite others’ genetic code. And he can control technology – in the movie that’s how he learns everything through TV, for instance. He’s been exposed to two separate techno-organic viruses. And he controls alien technology that he took from the god-like Celestials. It’s… a bit much.
He also seems to be able to extend his life by transferring his mind into a new body. He does this in the movie and he tried to do this with X-Man in the crossover series “The Twelve.”
He also can upgrade other mutants and bend them to his will, which he does to have four henchmen that he calls his Horsemen. You can read about all the characters who’ve had that role in this article.
As I mentioned above, in the comics Apocalypse has a spaceship, regeneration pods and other technology he stole from the Celestials. In the Marvel Studios movies, we saw them briefly in Guardians of the Galaxy when Taneleer Tivan explains the origin of the Infinity Stones. In this movie, there seems to be a hint that Apocalypse controls otherworldly technology during his body transference at the beginning of the film.
When we first meet Angel, he’s defeated Blob in a fight. He’s only there for a second but he’s wearing his costume from the comics (first appearing in X-Men #3 from January, 1964).
Nightcrawler first appears in the movie in circus performer clothes. In X-Men Annual #4 (January, 1980) we learned that Nightcrawler was raised in a German circus (he was first introduced in Giant-Size X-Men #1 from May, 1975 running from an angry mob afraid of his appearance). In X-Men Unlimited #4 (March, 1994) he learns that Mystique is his mother. In Nightcrawler Origins (2010) he learns his father was Azazel. Nightcrawler was always described as being Roman Catholic and in X-Men Vol. 2 #100 (May, 2000) he made a return to the team as a priest. In the movie, he can be seen praying.
Mystique eventually did become an X-Men member like in the movie. However, for over 20 years she was a villain. Still, she was a leader like in this movie. She just led the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She first appeared in full in Ms. Marvel #17 (June, 1978). She grudgingly agrees to work for Professor X as a type of spy in Mystique #1 (June, 2003). She is voted into the X-Men in X-Men Vol. 2 #174 (October, 2005) but it doesn’t last long. She betrays them eventually and returns to being a supervillain.
In the comics, Angel is one of the first Horsemen of Apocalypse that we ever see, in X-Factor #18 (July, 1987). Unlike in the movie, he was one of the founding members of the X-Men in the comics, so it was a big deal.
When Apocalypse recruits Angel in the movie, Angel is listening to the song “The Four Horsemen” from Metallica’s debut album in 1983, the same year the movie is set.
In Uncanny X-Men #102 (December, 1976) we learn that Storm’s mother is from Kenya and that she married a man and had Storm in New York. The family then moved to Egypt for work but her parents were killed in an aircraft strike by the Suez Canal and Storm grew up an orphan, pickpocketing until she learned about her powers which in turn led to her being able to make it rain which made the locals praise her as a goddess. In the movie, she begins as a street urchin in Egypt and Apocalypse calls her a goddess.
When Apocalypse turns her into a henchman in the movie, her hair goes white (as she’s always been portrayed in the comics). In Uncanny X-Men #173 (October 1983) Storm had lost her powers and gave herself a punk makeover which included a mohawk. Same year as the movie is set.
Magneto’s loss of his wife Magda is pretty close to what happened to him in the comics. In Avengers #186 (August, 1979) we learn that Magneto had a daughter with Magda, named Anya. In the movie they call her Nina. In the comics some angry villagers surround the family at an inn, it catches on fire and Nina is killed. Magneto lashes out, killing the villagers. However, while in the movie both Magda and Anya died, in the comics Magda ran away in fear, pregnant with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (she died shortly after giving birth, running into the cold woods in fear and dying). It’s a fairly close interpretation to Magneto’s second great tragedy in his life.
Psylocke’s origin in the comics is… convoluted. But she debuted as the sister of Captain Britain in Captain Britain #8 (December, 1976). She was originally portrayed as a white lady with purple hair and telepathy. She eventually joined the X-Men in New Mutants Annual #2 (October, 1986). The X-Men eventually go through a mystical portal called the Siege Perilous in Uncanny X-Men #251 (November, 1989) to wipe out the public’s knowledge of them. When Betsy emerges she’s switched bodies with another mutant telepath, Kwannon, a ninja. After that she could form a psychic knife which could knock people out. In the movie, this becomes a sword that can apparently even cut through physical objects. The movie version doesn’t have many lines but doesn’t seem to match up too closely with the comics version. Then again, she’s not too far off from Kwannon.
In the movie, Apocalypse finds Caliban, a mutant who keeps track of other mutants. In the comics, Caliban was a weak mutant who could sense where other mutants were. He was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #148 (August, 1981). In the comics, he opts to become one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen.
When we meet Professor X, he’s teaching a class and reading from T.H. White’s novel “The Once and Future King.” This is the same book that Magneto reads in prison in X2. In the 1990 X-Men crossover series X-Tinction Agenda, Professor X mentions it is his favorite book. The title is the supposed words on the headstone of the legendary King Arthur. Professor X points out he sees himself more as Merlyn, a mentor to heroes.
Jubilee is barely in the movie but she does go to the mall with Jean Grey, Scott Summers and Kurt Wagner. Jubilee was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #244 (May, 1989) as a mallrat who is impressed when she sees Storm, Psylocke, Dazzler and Rogue in the mall. She’s also cameoed in X-Men 1 through 3 which is set in the future. Don’t ask us how that works.
In the movie, Professor X and Havok learn that Moira MacTaggert has had a son since they last saw her about 20 years ago. In the comics, this son is a powerful mutant known as Proteus. He first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #125 (September, 1979). Proteus is a mutant hungry for energy and it has made him lose his mind. He exists as a being of energy and can possess other people but burns through their bodies. He can alter reality and transmute matter.
The Wolverine we meet in the movie is actually a lot closer to his comics origin as Weapon X than his first solo movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thanks to the timeline being adjusted in the last movie, this makes sense. In Marvel Comics Presents #72-84 (March-September 1991), the Weapon X story of Wolverine’s past was finally told where he was abducted and mentally reprogrammed while having adamantium bonded to his skeleton. He breaks loose but in an animalistic state, unable to remember his past and killing his way out of the (Canadian) military facility. The way Wolverine looks in the movie is very close to how artist Barry Windsor-Smith illustrated him.
When Apocalypse touches a TV, he intercepts all the signals. The show that was on when he first touched it was an episode of Star Trek from season two called “Who Mourns for Adonais” about an alien with godlike powers who thinks he is the Greek god Apollo. He calls the crew of the Enterprise his beloved children. Apocalypse later refers to mutants as his children. Looks like he learned a bit from the episode but he probably skipped the end where Kirk and crew trick the alien out of his powers.
Professor X ends the movie in the same wheelchair we first saw him in back in X-Men.
Stan has a cameo, like in most Marvel movies. But this one decided to play it serious. He and his real life wife Joan can be seen looking to the sky when Apocalypse launches all the nukes in the world. My theater chuckled at the recognition, something we’ve been trained to do with Stan’s usually humorous cameos. Although this was supposed to be serious. Oops.
At the end of the movie, the X-Men are assembled in uniforms that have a bit of color and look a little closer to the ones from the comics (especially Nightcrawler, Mystique and Cyclops). Turns out they’re in the Danger Room. We see Sentinels emerge that look like the ones we saw in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In the comics, this is their training facility which uses robotics and holograms. It first appeared in X-Men #2 (November, 1963).
In the post-credits sequence we see men arrive at Alkali Base and take some of Wolverine’s blood in a vial and place it in a suitcase with other vials. The suitcase says Essex Corporation. In the comics, Nathanial Essex is an X-Men villain called Mr. Sinister. He first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #221 (September, 1987). He is a geneticist who wants to manipulate humans to have mutant abilities. And other nutty sciency stuff. He was originally a biologist from Victorian England who met Apocalypse who granted him telepathy, telekinesis and a prolonged life span.
Mr. Sinister is into cloning and long-term manipulation. In the comics, he created a clone of Jean Grey (who was dead) and had her meet Cyclops so that they would have a son who would eventually become Cable and destroy Apocalypse. Seems like a crazy plan but I guess it did work so let’s not judge. In the comics, X-23 is a female clone of Wolverine. While she wasn’t created by Mr. Sinister, it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to have the movies do this.