"Sienkiewicz took over the art duties on New Mutants #18, and over the next year and a half, Claremont and Sienkiewicz had one of the finest runs of super hero comics in Marvel history. The Demon Bear was amazing and has remained with me to this day - the thing actually gave me nightmares. Claremont trusted Sienkiewicz to bring out the ragged edge in the story visually, making the enemies like the Demon Bear and Legion (pictured right) filled with a power, primal power. And Sienkiewicz got his opportunity to go crazy - there was never a better main stream comic for Sienkiewicz's talents. If he had only Warlock, the team's cubist technorganic virus styling himself as a man, to play with, even that would have been revolutionary. But Claremont provided him with a cast with whom he could truly let out all the stops, push the envelope." --From this story on 'Kokoro, the heart of things.'
The New Mutants was a companion title to Uncanny X-Men released in 1982 and following the adventures of a team of young mutants based at Xavier's school. The original X-Men were also recruited as teenagers - teen heroes were hip at the time - but they behaved like any other group of superheroes. NM took the premise of the original Uncanny X-Men and followed it faithfully. They were young people learning to use their powers safely, not simply another group of costumed heroes. They didn't go straight out to fight Magneto in the first issue. Nor did they do nothing but sit around the mansion and take classes for 50 issues, as trouble had a way of finding them.
The X-Men have always been weakest when their powers defined their personalities, such as during the '90s when Lobdell kept us well-reminded that Wolverine was a badass and Rogue was sad because she couldn't kiss Gambit. With the New Mutants, the personalities were more pronounced, the abilities more subtle. They had quirks and drawbacks. Instead of a telepath, they had specific talents like possession, translation or tapping into particular mental images. Instead of a brick, they had someone who was super-strong, but no tougher than an ordinary human. Most of their powers came with strings attached, like the Magus or Limbo. This lead to a weaker team but stronger characters, and their range of powers gave them options the Avengers or X-Men don't have.
They came from a wide range of backgrounds, while avoiding the Extreme Ghostbusters trap of presenting us with an entire cast of token ethnic characters. You had a salt-of-the-earth son of poor Kentucky coal miners, cocky rich man's son from Brazil, A Russian peasant lass raised in a demonic Limbo, a South American/Ancient Roman princess, an introverted Scottish werewolf, a Cheyenne girl trying to succeed in the white world without losing her heritage, an alien who used nanotechnology before anyone had even heard of the phrase "volitional nanomorph", and Joe Average. Along with the spooky mentalist headmaster, the holocaust survivor second headmaster and the dance coach from Fame.
"Would you believe that I started with #55? And, yet, I *still* loved the NM's? Despite the writing, their characters just *shone*." --Brucha S. Meyers
The resulting book ran for 54 issues before being taken over by Louise Simonson, at which point the it started to suffer from the death or abrupt removal of any character who was a bit difficult to write; dialogue more appropriate to Power Pack; occurances of inexplicable heterosexuality and curious ethical lapses. The most glaring of these was how Illyana suddenly picked up a love of hurling her victims into the fires of limbo that would put the most vindictive fundamentalist preacher to shame.
This culminated in Liefeld taking over, the book being renamed X-Force and the removal of any character with a power more complicated than force blasts. 'Dumbing down' doesn't begin to describe it. Disgruntled NM fans on Usenet or the web can tell that story far better than I. The point is that the New Mutants were never the same after the Claremont run, and it's in those original issues that you'll find the hints that when he referred to Dani & Rahne as 'soulmates' he wasn't simply talking about their telepathy.
"There are no gays in the Marvel Universe." --attributed to Jim Shooter
Between the comics code and editorial proclamations like that, things looked bleak for Marvel earth's fruit population in the 1980s. Chris Claremont ran the blockade with stealth lesbians like Mystique and Destiny, who were obviously gayer than a ray of sunshine. Obviously, that is, to anyone whose gaydar wasn't being jammed by a potent combination of homophobia and wishful thinking.
So was the relationship between Rahne and Dani intended in the same way? It was never explicitly stated, of course, and they probably weren't sleeping together at the time of the comics - Rahne was too young. But were they intended to be a couple?