The eldest of ten children, young Sam Guthrie was 11 years old when he became involved in a plot by the Deviants, a genetic offshoot of humanity, to improve their evolutionary status by performing experiments on children. Sam was saved by the timely arrival of the mysterious Deviant Sledge, and the minds of the children – including Sam – were wiped of the events that had transpired. Five years later, Sam’s father died, and as the oldest sibling he felt responsible for supporting the family. Giving up a college scholarship, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a coal miner. When Sam was trapped with a co-worker in a collapsing mine, the stress of attempting to escape triggered his latent mutant power, enabling him to blast them both free. Renegade Hellfire Club member Donald Pierce learned of Sam’s powers and manipulated him into serving as one of his operatives. Pierce sent Sam into battle against Professor Xavier and his fledgling New Mutants team; however, Sam refused to kill the young heroes, instead teaming up with them to defeat Pierce. Xavier subsequently realized that Sam had been misled and invited him to join the New Mutants as Cannonball. Sam soon found himself in the role of co-leader, a position he found awkward due to his relative slowness in mastering his mutant powers compared with his teammates. He also formed a lasting friendship with his teammate Sunspot.

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