…who Claremont originally intended Eric the Red to be a disguise of? Part 1 in a series of 3

Eric the Red

Well, shock horror, I’ve returned to my ongoing obsession to address the abandoned plots of Chris Claremont, this time through a 3 part series that will look back in time some thirty-five years when the walls between his world-building on Uncanny X-Men and Ms. Marvel were extremely thin.

The mystery of who Claremont originally intended ERIC THE RED to be has existed for 35 years now, but I believe evidence to promote MY theory that he was Mystique in disguise was recently provided by Claremont in the flashback scene in Chaos War: X-Men #1 he wrote where Moira MacTaggert reveals that Destiny’s quest to protect humanity led her to cross paths with a man of mystery named ERIC RAVEN.

It’s previously been a mystery why Davan Shakari more often spelled it ERIC when the original identity used by Cyclops was spelled ERIK.

Figure 2: Cyclops spells it as Eric the Red while Davan Shakari spells it as Eric the Red, from X-Men 51 and 97 respectively.

However, if Eric was Mystique’s original Christian name, did Claremont choose the latter spelling to provide readers with an extremely veiled clue? I think so!!!

During Chris’s X-Men: True Friends limited series, set in Edinburgh, Scotland in the year 1936, Mystique is portrayed working alongside Logan and Irene Adler as a MAN called “Mr. Raven” (obviously ERIC Raven).

Figure 3: Mr. Raven working alongside Irene Adler and Logan in 1936 from X-Men: True Friends #3

Since you’ll recall Claremont later revealed Rogue’s official name as Anna Raven in X-Treme X-Men, (s)he must have been using this surname to imply that “Raven” was Mystique’s official surname if (s)he was Anna’s adoptive parent.

Figure 4: Rogue adopts the surname of her adoptive parent, Mystique, from X-Treme X-Men #43

Now getting back to Mystique as being the true identity of Eric the Red…

Recall how the panel of Davan Shakari in shadow has a human male profile in Uncanny X-Men 107 and not the plumage shown when he is later unmasked.

Figure 5: Davan Shakari’s human (not Shi’ar) profile from Uncanny X-Men #107

This makes me believe Claremont and Cockrum originally planned for Eric the Red to be a human agent of D’Ken, with Claremont perhaps changing his mind after he received the illustrated pages back from Dave, writing the dialogue to reflect this change.

Hence, I would posit that by suggesting Eric the RED was a Shi’ar was Claremont’s sly attempt at a RED HERRING to put us off the truth (as Mystique of all characters could have easily metamorphed into a Shi’ar).

Given the screen showing a possible Shi’ar watching Steven Lang watching Eric the Red in Uncanny X-Men 97…

Figure 6: Shi’ar character watching Steven Lang watching Eric the Red’s battle with the X-Men from Uncanny X-Men #97

…and Claremont’s own reveal that Mike Rossi was planted to keep an eye on Lang…

Figure 7: Colonel Michael Rossi sent from Washington D.C. to interview Lang before giving the Council of the Chosen (the Hellfire Club) a final recommendation on his Sentinel project from Unanny X-Men #96

…was Eric the Red further intended as Rossi, who, while working for the government as a middle-man between Lang and the Council of the Chosen, was secretly a human agent of the Shi’ar?!

A further clue Claremont possibly provides to hint readers into this intention is the fact that ROSSI is a renowned surname in Italy which means “RED”.

Given Claremont’s later introduction of Mystique secretly working with the Council of the Chosen to rip SHIELD off by infiltrating a SHIELD Helicarrier as Nick Fury, compare this with the next time we see Rossi after his supposed death “infiltrating a SHIELD Helicarrier” in UXM 182 where he uncovered details of Hellfire Club agents operating inside the spy agency.

Figure 8: Colonel Mike Rossi infiltrates the SHIELD Helicarrier to discover Hellfire Club agents operating inside SHIELD from Uncanny X-Men #182

Did Claremont intend to reveal that Mike Rossi, and for that matter, Eric the Red, were really Mystique in disguise? I always thought it was rather interesting that Mike Rossi, a government agent, was so interested in protecting mutant rights. But if he was Mystique, then it makes perfect sense.

But if Rossi was really Mystique this wouldn’t be that much of a stretch when you consider she also masqueraded as government agent, Raven Darkholme!

Figure 9: Mystique’s identity of Raven Darkholme, Assistant Secretary of DARPA in Washington D.C. from Ms. Marvel #18

Recall that Carol Danvers had first met Mike Rossi JUST AFTER she joined the Air Force.

Figure 10: Rogue’s Carol Danvers personality confirming first meeting Mike Rossi just after she joined the Air Force from Uncanny X-Men #182

Now further recall that Mystique was made aware by Destiny that Danvers would be important to their mission, a so-called “lady of the clouds”. Did Mystique therefore adopt the identity of Mike Rossi to get close to Danvers to keep an eye on her, like she later would with Rogue? At this stage assume that Destiny hadn’t quite predicted that Danvers would cost Rogue her soul and possibly her life, due to the Shadow King’s manipulation of her visions in X-Treme X-Men Annual 1.

Figure 11: Shadow King’s manipulation of Irene Adler’s visions from X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001

Now further recall the mission Logan and Mike Rossi were on to free Danvers from a Lubyanka prison where the KGB was holding her.

Figure 12: Rogue’s Carol Danvers personality further recalls Logan and Colonel Rossi working together on a mission to free her from the Lubyanka prison the KGB were holding her in from Uncanny X-Men #182

For some odd reason this draws parallels to Logan’s earlier mission in True Friends where he was working with Mr. Raven & Irene Adler. Did Rossi/ Raven seek Logan out for this mission due to (s)he earlier knowledge?

If Rossi was Mystique this would better explain how he survived the plane crash outside Red Hook (I further wonder if Claremont intended a little Lovecraftian connection there;) How interesting that the reading of “his” mind by Emma Frost then leads to the Hellfire Club’s anti-mutant agenda being overthrown, the organisation going on to be lead my mutants.

Figure 13: Emma Frost’s reading of Mike Rossi’s mind leads to Ned Buckman’s Council of the Chosen being overthrown by Sebastian Shaw from Classic X-Men #7

Even more interesting is how, after his recovery, Rossi goes underground as Raven Darkholme is introduced as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and is believed dead for some years.

When Rossi shows up again he is firstly seen investigating Henry Peter Gyrich’s involvement in Project: Wideawake, an equivalent of the project he’d firstly been investigating Steven Lang and the Hellfire Club for…

Figure 14: The first time Michael Rossi is seen since his supposed death, investigating the National Security Council’s involvement in Project: Wideawake from New Mutants #2

…and is next seen infiltrating a SHIELD Helicarrier to uncover information on the Hellfire Club and Sebastian Shaw (see Figure 8 above). Given Shaw is later revealed to be funding Project: Wideawake…

Figure 15: Mark IV Sentinels built by Sebastian Shaw for the U.S. Government’s Project: Wideawake from New Mutants #2

…this could explain Mystique’s earlier mission for the Hellfire Club on the SHIELD Helicarrier.

Figure 16: Mystique’s infiltration of a SHIELD Helicarrier as Nick Fury from Ms. Marvel #17

Had Raven infiltrated the Hellfire Club when first introduced in an effort to uncover SHIELD’s involvement in the manufacture of Sentinels?

Then consider Claremont’s recent revelation that SHIELD has been infiltrated by the Consortium who are revealed to have been the ones behind the Sentinels throughout Marvel’s history.

Figure 17: The manufacturing of Sentinels is revealed as a pet project of the Consortium from X-Men Forever #9

Don’t you just love the idea of Mystique masquerading as these other major supporting characters, Eric the Red, Mike Rossi, etc.?

To be continued in Part 2

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14 Responses

  1. Claremont’s penchant for placing subtle story clues and introducing plot lines that he would slowly unveil – or seemingly “forget” about – until the time was right, to then reveal the inner workings of a deeply laid subplot, was something that hooked (and frustrated) me as an X-Men reader early on (I started with X-Men # 116, but soon bought ALL the back issues to # 94 and dissected the works).

    Your suggestion that he worked closely with Dave Cockrum on dropping visual clues is quite possible as many of the subtle hints that were laid over the years were only semi-hidden visual tidbits. Thus, you could be on to something (as opposed to chalking it up to an artist’s error – as could sometimes be the case in any other book).

    But, trying to parse what Clairmont was thinking of doing at ANY given time is the stuff of nightmares, causing my head to split open like a N’Garai mound.

    You’re a far, far better man than I to wade into such deep and clouded waters.

    ~P~

  2. And I’ll be wading more into Claremont over the coming weeks, so stay tuned:)

  3. I have more reading to do, I know. But I just read the Rossi/Eric the Red/Mystique theory, and it is awesome. Have you sent this to Claremont himself, to see what he says? I wish Dave were still alive; he’d be able to shed light on all of this. But yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I like your logic. Especially since Mystique is such a ubiquitous character under Claremont, and has been shown many times involved (one way or the other) with the US government. I wonder how old she is, and how long she’s been an agent or spy of some kind, for different governments. The fact that Destiny is “Irene Adler” sets her at the time of Sherlock Holmes, at least.

  4. You already know I love the “Rossi=Red” connection, as that’s the kind of wordplay Claremont loved, but the Hellfire Club connections weren’t something I’d considered before, and I think it really strengthens your argument. And I’d completely forgotten about Rossi’s investigation of Project: Wideawake, which connects everything back to issue #97, both the Hellfire Club and Rossi’s opposition to the Sentinels. Great stuff.

    But, trying to parse what Clairmont was thinking of doing at ANY given time is the stuff of nightmares, causing my head to split open like a N’Garai mound.

    You’re a far, far better man than I to wade into such deep and clouded waters.

    Haha, ditto! I’m very glad you’re parsing through all this; it boggles the mind!

    • Thanks for confirming on my Comment board, Teebore:)

      I’m so stoked that you love the “Rossi-Red” connection and am totally convinced about it being another example of Claremont’s wordplay. You’ll find some further examples of my efforts to use this method to reveal Claremont’s possible intentions in Part 2 and 3, but I’m now more desperate than ever to know what Davan Shakari translates as.

      And yep, I think the Hellfire Club and its connections to Project: Wideawake link it all back to Steven Lang, Project: Armageddon and Claremont’s introduction of Eric the Red.

      I believe, though, it runs much deeper than this and Claremont intended it to have something integral to do with Lorna Dane’s first appearance in the Demi-Men plot, particular when Mesmero and Eric the Red both targeted her, Eric gives her the code-name “Polaris” and Mr. Sinister later names her as the “pole-star” to his plans.

      If you review the comments in some of my earlier posts, you’ll find I’ve discussed some convincing theories about what happened to the Demi-Men!!!

      If anyone can help me come up with a translation for Davan Shakari please do. I’d really appreciate the assistance in cracking this “cypher”!

  5. Finally, I get around to commenting.

    On a general level, I am not really excited by the hypothesis that Mystique could have been Davan Shakari or Mick Rossi, especially as in the latter case it would remove yet another non-mutant ally. In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to think that there’s too few characters who fit that description in the X-books anyway (what with Moira MacTaggert being killed off, people like Trish Tilby and Charlotte Jones being written out etc.) Also, I am quite cold to the hypothesis of Mystique being Shi’ar given that in the stories involving her that readily come to my mind she displayed no interest in the Shi’ar or Marvel’s intergalactic empires in general, so to me it begs the question why a Shi’ar (possible Shi’ar princess) would become so involved in the affairs of the mutant strain of an “undeveloped” sentient species of a backwater planet to the exclusion of interest in “home affairs” (and taking a shot at becoming majestrix herself).

    The Rossi angle also does not work for me because from the stories I am pretty sure that the Michael Rossi seen in UXM #182 was not Mystique – his MO in “infiltrating” the Helicarrier was too clumsy and inefficient for her (he basically stumbled on the Hellfire Club mole by accident) and under the circumstances she probably would not have needed help to overpower her captors and make an escape by switching identities. And why would Mystique call the X-Men for help instead of either the Brotherhood or an official government enquiry into SHIELD? Also note that as Raven Darkhölme, assistant head of DARPA, her profile was too high for her to be away from Washington and the Pentagon for too long without her absence being noticed and her cover being put at unnecessary risk. Also, Mystique at that point still was hoping to make Rogue return to her, and Rossi’s behaviour towards Rogue was very counter-productive towards achieving that aim.

    A few minor points:
    Erik and Eric sound the same, I don’t attach that much importance to matters of spelling, it always seems to be in flux (vide the way people never seem to be able to make up their mind whether it is Eric or Erik Lehnsherr or Lensherr or how it used to be Elizabeth Braddock and then became Elisabeth, or how Destiny’s first name was spelled Irené, Irenie etc. before Chris Claremont settled on basic Irene (another portentuous name, if you will, it means “peace”). And Eric/Erik is one of those names that seems to be used quite a bit among the X-books, rather like Madelyne/Madeline (the Maddy Pryors from Avengers Annual #10, Scott’s first wife, also Iceman’s mother) or Catherine (Kitty Pryde and Jean Grey’s mom). So when it comes to why Chris Claremont decided to give Mystique’s previous name as Eric Raven in a story published about half a year ago, I think it is more likely to be a reference to Eric Wagner (Nightcrawler’s supposed father) and thus CC’s plan to have Mystique be Kurt’s father than a reference to Eric the Red, who basically dropped out of sight ca. 35 years ago and is probably the least well remembered Erik or Eric in the X-books.

    Re. the Rossi/Danvers chronology: I think it is pretty safe to assume that in your scenario Irene would have become aware of Carol before she and Raven became aware of Rogue. Remember that in UXM #182 it is established that the break-out from the Lubyanka happened eight years previously, and at that point Rogue was written as being 17 or at most 18 years old. You have to add quite a few years between Carol joining the USAF (and first meeting Rossi) and the break-out…

    Also as far as I know Logan and Carol already were friends before he and Mick broke Carol out of the Lubyanka, so it would not really require an explanation why those two did the job.

    By the way, a speculation of my own re. UXM #182 was sparked off by an exchange in #274:

    Nick Fury: “Well well well, look who ain’t dead.”
    Rogue: “Funny, ah was jus’ thinkin’ pretty much the same ’bout you. Been a while, Colonel Fury. Thanks for the rescue.”

    Only as far as had been shown in-story, the two had never met before. So my pet theory is that during the break that accommodated most of Madelyne Pryor-Summers’ pregnancy (ca. UXM #192, IIRC), Rogue had an encounter with Nick Fury where they hashed things out, which would also help to explain why SHIELD somehow never followed through on the hot pursuit Fury ordered at the end of #182.

  6. Non-Claremontean addendum:
    It seems that Mike Carey is implying that Mystique is even older than previously confirmed. In X-Men Legacy #215 the Mystique persona Rogue absorbed says: “Solitude was my natural state for a hundred years. I never let anyone inside my guard.” That must be referring to a time before she met Destiny.

  7. @Menshevik: Sorry to hear you’re not as excited about my hypotheses as others.

    While you’re concerned about Mystique/ Eric the Red being Rossi removing yet another non-mutant ally, you’ll recall Claremont was actually the poster-child for setting this precedent in comics more than any other writer at the time.

    While the stories involving Mystique might not have readily drawn direct parallels to Shi’ar, we all know Claremont is the poster-child for slow-burn plots, his closest editor Louise Simonson identifying this as one of his primary writing traits. Just look at Tessa being Xavier’s sleeper which he has claimed was his intent from her from the start!

    As for why a “Shi’ar would become so involved in the affairs of the mutant strain of an ‘undeveloped’ sentient species of a backwater planet to the exclusion of interest in ‘home affairs’”, .

    As for your not believing Rossi is Mystique due to his infiltrating of the Helicarrier in Uncanny #182, was his clumsiness due to wanting to throw SHIELD off since they’d have figured the previous infiltration was undertaken by a shape-shifter? She could have many reasons, including playing the “hapless human” so Rogue would come to his rescue and he could play some mindgame with Carol? Did she do it since she considered Rogue’s abandonment of her and Destiny for Xavier’s was a result of Carol’s personality exerting her dominance over Rogue?

    While her identity of Raven might have been too high profile, it is during this time that Valerie Cooper takes more of a hand in “mutant affairs” so perhaps she was able to take the time-out for these sorts of missions. Recall that after Rossi’s death/ disappearance Raven came more to the forefront and vice-versa. And despite Rossi’s return in New Mutants, he disappeared shortly thereafter. I’d suggest it was an identity of convenience she pulled out from time-to-time.

    Like a number of other commenters, I actually believe Claremont did place importance to matters of spelling and the true meaning behind names of characters as he did like hiding and making very subtle clues.

    As for the Rossi/ Danvers chronology, while I can see where you’re coming from, it doesn’t necessarily rule out my suggestion and I do like the sneakiness it implies in Claremont’s plotting, and agree with his editor Louise that he was the smartest plotter she had ever worked with.

    I really like the implications of Nick Fury and Rogue’s comments in Uncanny #274 and find your hypothesis to be quite sound:)

    Oh, if only Claremont had been left alone the first time around to weave his magic the way he intended. I’m still grieving some 20+years later:(

    Addendum to your addendum: As for Mike Carey’s suggestion about Mystique’s true age, not Claremont so not canon in my theories and I’d further refer you back to Part 2, Figure 23 with regard to his original intent re: her age.

    • Yeah, sorry about not being that enthusiastic about your hypotheses, but others are.

      Re. infiltrating the helicarrier: I think we run into a few more problems with this scenario. With her own shapeshifting and Destiny’s precognition Mystique really should have been able to infiltrate it without being detected. (Also, SHIELD got penetrated by enemy agents, Deltites etc. so frequently that even if they had figured out that they had been penetrated by a shapeshifter on that previous occasion there is no reason to assume that they would have been able to prevent this from happening again).

      Your scenario of Mystique planning the events in #182 as they happened is also problematic. Could Mystique know that Rogue, only Rogue, and to be specific a Rogue taken over by the personality she had absorbed from Carol Danvers would respond to Rossi’s call for help? That Xavier would not despatch a squad of X-Men, which in all likelihood would have included Wolverine, who would have smelled through Mystique’s disguise immediately? Destiny’s precognition proved a bit wonky around that time – she could not predict that Rogue would refuse to return to her family in UXM #178, and the insights into the future she provided in #185 also were extremely limited. Not to mention that Rogue’s state in #182 was entirely preconditioned on her having been in the first Secret War and thus on the intervention of the reality-altering Beyonder, whose powers probably would have rendered him and the events of the war impenetrable to Destiny.

      But if she had been able to foresee that she would be rescued only by Rogue, is also the question what Mystique would have wanted to achieve by appearing to “Carol” as Rossi. The net result of the issue was of course to deepen Rogue’s crisis, to give her a massive sense of guilt over what she had done to Carol Danvers, and quite probably to make her return to Mystique and the Brotherhood even more unlikely than when Mystique tried it four issues previously.

      As I recall, Raven Darkhölme’s job at DARPA did not actually have anything to do with mutant affairs (or only concerned mutants peripherally), she only became involved with this when Val Cooper needed anti-mutant weapons and called her into the consultations.

      On a general level, I’m a bit wary about Claremont’s “original intentions” as it seems to me that his modus operandi was more fluid, he kept making changes all the time, so re. Tessa he may have thought of her as a possible mole from the start as he later claimed, but that would have been merely a possibility, and if he had in the interim come up with a good storyline that made it impossible, he would have quietly dropped it. Similar with characters’ ages – Rogue in her first appearances (Avengers Annual #10, UXM #158) appeared to be older than a teenager, and written by others (in ROM and Dazzler) she certainly appeared signficantly older (ROM seemed to be hinting she was Mystique’s lover). But when he decided to make Rogue an X-Man, he told artist Paul Smith (as the latter recalled in an interview) that she was ca. 16 years old. A year later, in UXM #182 he has Rogue remark on-panel that she is 18! Similarly, he stated that Mystique was 30 years old (born in 1953) in 1983, but that seems impossible to reconcile with her being Nightcrawler’s parent (which, as we know, he planned earlier) and not exactly easy to reconcile (except perhaps involving time-travel) with her being the life-partner of Destiny, who looked old enough to be the grandmother of a thirty-year-old. So maybe the “would not be born for another 170 years” actually was merely the result of an arithmetical error.

  8. interesting theory that clarmont was intending to have Mystique be none other then eric the red. not to mention mystique infiltrating the hell fire club. never thought she would ever care for that group. plus the theorty that mystique was a man during times with destiny is interesting given how the original plan for night crawler was he was suppose to be destiny’s and mystique as parents. mainly mystique as a his father . nice theory

  9. Clearly what’s most telling here is the “Rossi” business…no way Claremont lets that name alone and doesn’t turn it to something! I’m as yet unsure about Mystique because I think the fix doesn’t go quite far enough, I guess? My feeling is that she needs some sort of a plan to explain all the things she’s done, and you guys may know of some plan she’s been said to have but I don’t…

    Is there one?

    • @ plok: I agree that despite everything else, there is no way Claremont named Mike “Rossi” without intending to link it to Eric the Red.

      I realise that the fix doesn’t quite go far enough, but the parallels of Mystique’s missions and those of Rossi’s seem too analogous to not be intending to draw some parallel, and the dual links with Carol Danvers is far too coincidental. Louise Simonson has previously praised Chris for his obsession with planting clues that were so subtle yet paid off so fantastically later, so I just can’t believe that he planted it without intending to later utilise it.

      But if my fix doesn’t go far enough, what pray plok do you have in mind? If you’re not versed well enough in Mystique’s actions I’m happy to be the sounding board that can provide you with the links you possibly need:)

  10. Wow! That is an amazing theory if true. With the power of retrospect, it is easy to see Claremont’s attempt to streamline various concepts into any book he was writing (and at the time those were quite a number of books.) I’m not 100% convinced by your theory, but it certainly jives with my own theory that Ms. Marvel could have been a major power player in the Marvel Universe– just think if it were her title that was the focus of such epic Shi’ar stories that the X-Men are known for!

    (BTW, I like your own blog and may have to take inspiration from your premise “How would you fix…?” Intriguing ideas!)

  11. [...] and ludicrously researched taking a look through the entire Claremont canon. Go check it out at How Would You Fix…? There’s a lot of good essays over there. That’s all for now. Monday will deal with some [...]

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