…Gateway’s origin?

Figure 01

Before Chris Claremont was unceremoniously fired from the X-titles by Bob Harras, we never learnt the origins of the mutant aborigine Gateway or the details behind the “geas” binding him to the land surrounding the abandoned mining town that served as the Reavers’ outback headquarters.

In the letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229 it says this about Gateway:

"And the full truth won't be known about Gateway for quite some time – which just might cost the X-Men dearly!" (letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229)

“And the full truth won’t be known about Gateway for quite some time – which just might cost the X-Men dearly!” (letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229)

Cryptic hint there in that last sentence, wouldn’t you say?  What “full truth” is going to cost the X-Men dearly?? When we meet Gateway in #229, he is providing the villainous Reavers use of his teleporting powers.  But why? Reaver leader Bonebreaker knows something about Gateway, saying on Page 9:

"Don't mind. He can look any which way he pleases... so long as he does what he's told. But mark me, Gateway-- any funny stuff, an' the Reavers'll trash your Holy Place beyond all hope o-' reconsecration-- an' then your people will NEVER know peace. They'll wander the Dreamlands, slave to OUTSIGN SPIRITS, to the end of time an' beyond!" (cf. Uncanny X-Men #229, p.9)

“Don’t mind. He can look any which way he pleases… so long as he does what he’s told. But mark me, Gateway– any funny stuff, an’ the Reavers’ll trash your Holy Place beyond all hope o’ reconsecration– an’ then your people will NEVER know peace. They’ll wander the Dreamlands, slave to OUTSIGN SPIRITS, to the end of time an’ beyond!” (cf. Uncanny X-Men #229, p.9)

Gateway stares at Bonebreaker with barely hidden contempt.  Reading the above quote, the “Holy Place” Bonebreaker mentions is obviously the land surrounding the outback town, where the spirits of Gateway’s ancestors reside.  What’s further interesting about this quote is that the Dreamlands, the usual resting place for all ancestral spirit beings in Australian Aboriginal mythology, according to Bonebreaker are threatened by “outsign spirits”.

So just what are these “outsign spirits” threatening the Dreamlands?

The next time Claremont refers to the Aboriginal Dreamtime, also known as Alchera, being under threat is when the Shadow King kidnaps Gateway in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001 in an effort to access the totality of time-space and all of creation through it.

Figure 04

Interesting to note  in this Annual is that Donald Pierce, leader of the Reavers, is revealed to have been among the Shadow King’s many hosts.

Figure 05

So was the Shadow King one of the “outsign spirits” Bonebreaker refers to, and the Reaver’s threat to Gateway concerns the Shadow King enslaving his ancestors if he didn’t serve their villainous needs?

Other mysteries surrounding this whole Claremont plot include the origins of the Australian Outback town itself and the land surrounding it.

Figure 06

So what were the origins of the town, and for that matter the Reavers’ base?

Well first up, the saloon in the town is shown with a signpost atop it with the year 1890 inscribed…

Figure 07

…a period when there had been regular massacres of Aboriginal people by white settlers in Australia. This initially made me consider the significance of the town to be that white settlers had massacred Gateway’s people and had further desecrated the land by building their town over it.

However, if we go back to Bonebreaker’s quote in Uncanny X-Men #229, he threatens to desecrate their Holy Place (FUTURE TENSE), not that it has already been desecrated (PAST or PRESENT TENSE)!

Then there is the mystery of the technology of the Reavers’ base.  The underground computer system in particular is technologically advanced – moreso than that of the X-Mansion –

Figure 08

so advanced in fact that it teaches Madelyne how to operate it – something she found eerily convenient.

Figure 09

Among its many other advanced features it once tapped into Madelyne’s dreams and displayed them on its monitors, suggesting it had the ability to psionically scan minds and translate this into visual images.

Figure 10

However, this ability only manifested after Madelyne appeared to have made contact with Limbo and there is evidence that S’ym and N’astirh could perform this trick with other devices, during one instance while Madelyne was away from the Outback…

Figure 11

…N’astirh contacted her over a computer monitor on the island of Genosha in Uncanny X-Men #236.

Figure 12

In addition to being possibly self-aware and connected to Limbo, the computer appeared to be self-repairing as well.  It was perhaps even organic, the monitor twice repairing itself after a user damaged it; once at the hands of Madelyne in Uncanny X-Men #234…

Figure 13

..and once by Havok in Uncanny X-Men #249.

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Then after the Reavers retook the town, they observed that the computer system seemed to be growing on its own.

Figure 15a

Figure 15b

This self-repairing ability would seem analogous to Sentinel technology (i.e. Master Mold as shown in Uncanny X-Men #246)…

Figure 16

…or the Transmode Virus, and given the demon N’astirh had during Inferno been shown to have been infected by this virus…

Figure 17

…this could suggest his seduction of Madelyne through its systems spread the virus enough that the system’s former operator, Bonebreaker, would understandably show surprise at its new programming language and note its growth being comparable to that of a living organism (see above).

But what of the computer’s advanced technology shown prior to its potential infection by the Transmode Virus, and that beyond Bonebreakers’ modifications?  Does a clue lie in Uncanny X-Men #253?  The other Reaver besides Bonebreaker that demonstrates knowledge operating the computer’s systems in this issue is Lady Deathstrike, particularly its comprehensive surveillance system, which she refers to as “Spyeye”.

Figure 18

Now where have we heard that before?  This is the term by which Psylocke’s prosthetic set of cybernetic eyeballs Spiral implanted to replace those blinded by Slaymaster – which also functioned as cameras allowing Mojo to spy on the X-Men – were referred by Mojo and Spiral.

Figure 19

Considering Lady Deathstrike was cybernetically enhanced by Spiral to become a member of the Reavers…

Figure 20

…I’d posit the technology behind their base’s computer system, with its advanced cameras, etc., could be from Mojoworld and have been purchased from Spiral by Donald Pierce.

But back to the “outsign spirits” Bonebreaker refers to, which, sadly, the explanation for has been RIGHT THERE in another tale from Marvel’s history.

This tale requires us to travel to Wakanda for a moment where after the vibranium meteor fell there, as revealed by T’Challa in Black Panther #7…

Figure 21a

…it emitted radiation causing mutations in small portions of the population, turning them into “demon spirits” who attacked their fellow tribe members.

Figure 21b

T’Challa’s ancestor, Bashenga, declared the vibranium mound too dangerous closing it to outsiders, and formed the Panther Cult to guard over it thus preventing others from being transformed by it into “demon spirits” and spreading across the kingdom.

Figure 21c

I would therefore suggest that the “outsign spirits” to whom Bonebreaker refers were Aborigines similarly transformed by a vibranium meteor that fell in the Australian Outback.

This raises another question, that being where is the vibranium meteor now?  In order to answer this, I must continue to try explaining the mystery behind the Australian Outback town.

It is worth noting that a vast, sprawling complex lies hidden beneath the town where the Reavers established their base; the buildings connected to each other by a series of underground tunnels and a sewer system, in addition to massive vaults.

Figure 22

These catacombs – obviously predating the Reavers’ arrival – are indicative of abandoned mining corridors.

Does this therefore suggest that white settlers had discovered small vibranium deposits and so decided to establish a mining town on the site (that was the land of Gateway’s ancestors)?

I’ll get to this mystery soon but will first try to answer where the vibranium meteor had fallen in the Australian Outback.

When it comes to Gateway, he spends virtually every moment we saw him – during Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run – sitting atop a rock not unlike Uluru.

Figure 23

It is interesting to note that Uluru, a mineral rich monolith arising from the heart of Australia…

Figure 24

…used to be believed by people to be a meteorite.  So was Claremont aware of this theory and decided to reveal the similar monolith overlooking the town as a vibranium mound?

Might this further suggest Claremont intended to reveal Gateway’s power as a product of the mutagenic properties of a vibranium mound?  In addition to Gateway being somehow indebted to the Reavers, Uncanny X-Men #269 revealed that a “geas” bound him to the place to perform some task.

Figure 25

I would posit that this was equivalent to the sacred duty of the Panther Cult in Wakanda and was placed upon him by his spirit ancestors to ensure he guarded over the monolithic vibranium mound to prevent the “outsign spirits” from breaking free to control the Dreamlands.  To substantiate this theory I’d ask you to recall how during Claremont’s Outback era Gateway is shown to firstly never leave the vicinity of the rock…

Figure 26

…and secondly regularly use a bull-roarer, a sacred object known for its ability in Australian Aboriginal culture to ward off evil spirits.

Figure 27

While writers since Claremont have attempted to place the location of the town and its surrounding land in Western Australia, the town’s high-tech computer systems were to me a more reliable source of information, and they place the town somewhere in North Central Australia.

Figure 28a

Figure 28b

Readers can, I suppose, be forgiven for buying bulldust written by later writers given their lack of familiarity with Australian geography (though for goodness sake if the giant rock Gateway sat atop wasn’t a clue), but a little research about Australian indigenous religion would reveal Gateway’s use of the bull-roarer also held the answer to the location of the town in addition to the identity of his people’s tribal group.  You see, the bull-roarer, also known as a Churinga, is an object of religious significance used only by North Central Australian indigenous people of the Arrernte groups, who are the traditional custodians of the Arrernte lands which lies roughly between Alice Springs and Uluru.

Now back to the mining town, the explanation for who mined the vibranium mound has been RIGHT THERE… and perhaps answers the real reason why Donald Pierce had established the Reavers’ base in this particular Australian Outback town.  Recall that in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, introducing the New Mutants, the mine young Samuel Guthrie gained employment at after the death of his father in Cameron, Kentucky was owned by Pierce-Consolidated Mining, the company responsible for providing Donald with his vast financial resources which made him eligible for membership in the Hellfire Club.

Figure 29

Since Pierce was a pawn of the Shadow King at the time, and probably had been since becoming a member of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club given the Shadow King had been its lord imperial…

Figure 30

…I would posit he had been manipulated to establish the underground complex in the town for purpose of mining the vibranium there; and Pierce had encouraged his original Reavers using it as their base of operations for their international heists to conceal its true function.

But what did the Shadow King want with Vibranium?

Well recall throughout most of his appearances during Claremont’s run how the Shadow King had been pursuing Storm for many years?

Figure 31

Toward the end of his run, in Uncanny X-Men #265, further hints were dropped as to what was behind this bizarre obsession when the Shadow King claimed she had been promised to him long ago.

Figure 32

With it then being shown in Uncanny X-Men #253 that the Shadow King had Gateway bound for some time, could this finally explain what he was attempting all along?

Figure 33a

Figure 33bNow recall that both Ororo’s mother N’Dare’s tribe was in Kenya and Wakanda is likewise obviously meant to be in Kenya – what with its name being evocative of the Wakamba tribe of Kenya.  However, Wakanda is a patriarchy, the title of Black Panther prior to T’Challa always having gone to the nation’s king, whereas N’Dare was a princess in a matriarchal tribe.

Figure 34

This raises the question of how N’Dare’s tribe became a matriarchy.  Might it stem back to the incident in Wakanda?  That is, was N’Dare’s tribe originally a clan of the territory that was cut off when Bashenga founded the nation of Wakanda around the area of the vibranium mound to prevent the spread of “demon spirits” across the kingdom?  And was the Shadow King leader of a clan who was mutated into a “demon spirit” by radiation from the mound?  Were the males of this clan perhaps more susceptible to being transformed into “demon spirits” and did the surviving clan go on to became a matriarchy after this incident? And is this why the Shadow King was so intent on gaining possession of Ororo, so he could unseat the ancient line of sorceresses and reinstate himself as rightful heir to the tribe’s mystical power, after which he intends to return to Wakanda to release his demon brethren?  A closely guarded secret of the royal family of Wakanda is that pure vibranium can amplify magical abilities exponentially, so had whom Farouk had been back then discovered this and made his way to the mound to increase the power of some spell, which led to his becoming a being of pure psionic energy, further prompting Bashenga’s formation of the Black Panther Cult to guard the sacred mound containing it?

If this was the case why did he then need to manipulate Donald Pierce and force Gateway into his servitude?

Well recall he had been defeated at every turn in his efforts to possess Storm, so had he turned his attentions to the Sacred Mound in Australia as a backup?  That is, by firstly employing Pierce to mine the site the mound would be uncovered and the “outsign spirits” equivalent to his demon brethren would be released and enslave Gateway’s spirit ancestors, thereby shifting them off the board so he could go on to conquer the Dreamtime, perhaps providing him with a back door to Wakanda.

Whatever the case may be, the remaining question in this overall plot requiring an intellectually-satisfying answer is where did the vibranium meteor originate from?  With my fix suggesting Storm’s ancestry as Faltine, I began entertaining the idea that Vibranium had come to reside on Earth as a result of an ancient Wakandan cult summoning it from some Dark Dimension by performing some dark ritual; and that the leader of this ancient cult was a member of Bashenga’s tribe who would go on to become the Shadow King as a result of the meteor’s radiation.

But this didn’t sit quite right with me, and I recalled how the Vibranium mound was shown in Black Panther #7 to transform at least one member of Bashenga’s tribe into a great red demon with tough, leathery skin and razor-sharp claws…

Figure 35

…leading me to think of Kierrok, and whether the vibranium meteor had been summoned by the ancient Wakandan cult from the N’Garai dimension?  And were those of Bashenga’s tribe who were transformed into “demon spirits” members of this mystical cult and their leader mutated into a demon of pure psionic energy?

However, I still found myself not entirely satisfied with this explanation, and began returning my thoughts to the Arrernte people above and how their term for the Dreaming is the Alchera, a name etymologically similar to the spirit plane called the Alshra…

Figure 36a

…introduced by Claremont’s partner in Arthurian crime, Alan Davis, in the Wolverine 1990 annual, Bloodlust.

Figure 36b

Figure 36c

In this tale, a group of the Neuri tribe are draining energy from the spirit plane following their transformation into “demon spirits” after feasting on human flesh…

Figure 36d

Figure 36e

…a concept identical to that more famous Marvel spirit demon, Wendigo.  It is worth noting that the curse of the Wendigo is referred to as a “curse of the Elder Gods” in Monsters Unleashed #9.

Figure 37

As it’s written by Claremont, that would seem to tie the Wendigo to the N’Garai.

So if the N’Garai are responsible for this “demon spirit” does this suggest they are responsible for all “demon spirits” in the Marvel Universe and are exposing those they corrupt into demons with raw vibranium?  Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #22, also written by Claremont, reveals that many millennia ago, long before the Great Cataclysm which sank Atlantis, humanity was enslaved by the N’Garai, serving as their workers.

Figure 38

It has never been revealed what work it was that humans were forced to perform for the N’Garai, but I’d posit based on the above that it was mining vibranium for them.

This would seem to suggest that the N’Garai had conquered Earth for the purpose of mining its vibranium deposits, which would mean the vibranium meteor had obviously not come from their dimension.

That is, unless the N’Garai were not otherdimensional demons at all but rather our ancient ancestors, and like later “demon spirits” were similarly transformed by the vibranium deposits!

But if the N’Garai were birthed on Earth, this still leaves unresolved the question of where the vibranium meteor originates from.

While vibranium does not obviously originate from the dimension the N’Garai were banished to (by Satana’s father according to Marvel Preview #7), was there more to their interest in Limbo than just using it as a “stepping stone” back to Earth?  Now recall that Limbo was a place with an ecology composed primarily of demons, and outsiders who come to be lost/ trapped there similarly develop a demonic appearance.

Figure 39

So might this finally explain not only the mystery of the source of the massive meteor made up of the sound-absorbing mineral vibranium that crashed on Earth, but what was responsible for transforming travellers becoming trapped in Limbo?

To those who made it this far you’ve been wondering “He completely overlooked the Savage Land variant (aka. Anti-Metal)”!   To which I answer “Oh ye of little faith” and posit that Antarctica vibranium, while appearing different due to it destroying other metals by its presence as opposed to the Wakandan version which absorbs energy/ vibrations, has much more in common with it than previously believed.

Figure 40a

Figure 40b

In promoting this theory I’d draw your attention to Ka-Zar the Savage #11, which is set in Pangaea, the semi-tropical paradise hidden in the icy reaches of Antarctica built as an amusement park by the ancient Atlanteans before Atlantis fell, its virtually indestructible machinery keeping the cold at bay.

Figure 41

In this tale we learn this to be the place the N’Garai directed Belasco to for performing a ritual to summon them to Earth.  In his supposed efforts, Belasco formed vast tunnels deep into the caverns of the valley, but I’d alternatively posit he did this with the intention of mining the Anti-Metal for his N’Garai Masters who had previously enslaved humanity to mine it for them before the Great Cataclysm.  Then as is the pattern, upon exposure to pure deposits of the element, he begins developing a demonic appearance.

Figure 42

This tale also introduces the Children of Dis, an underground yellow-skinned humanoid race are identical to Moloids in appearance…

Figure 45a

…save for the power to emit bursts of energy through their eyes, are said to be descendants of Dante’s crew mutated by Belasco.

Figure 45b

But what if he instead had enslaved them to work in the mines and their mutation was from exposure to the Antartic vibranium?  Given their appearance this could further overturn the shoe-horned origin for the Moloids and Tyrannoids – that they were created through Celestial science by the Deviants – and alternatively align it more to their creator, Jack Kirby’s plot of Vibranium as a major source of mutation in the Marvel Universe (still retaining the Deviants but not as creations of the Celestials but rather vibranium mutates who formed their own race).

And here Kirby spells it out in black & pink, Vibranium abilities drawing on energy from Limbo!

And here Kirby spells it out in black & pink, Vibranium abilities drawing on energy from Limbo!

The Children of Dis (hereafter Disoids;) emitting bursts of energy through their eyes further brings to mind those denizens of the Dark Dimension, the Mindless Ones.

Figure 45c

And like the Moloids, Tyrannoids and Disoids, the Mindless Ones are a slave-race summoned to do the bidding of others.   Might this suggest they were originally a cult of wizards who sought out a sacred mound to amplify some spell which similarly transformed them into “demon spirits”!?  And might this further explain how the realm that later became the Dark Dimension got wiped out half a million years ago?  That is, upon being transformed, these mindless wizards were perhaps compelled, like Jakarra, to enter the vibranium mound in that universe; generating a shockwave so massive it shattered the dimension, creating warps into pocket universes?  I’d further posit that the Mindless Ones managed to somehow survive this cataclysm and their continued attempts at shattering the Dark Dimension’s great mystical barrier is in an effort to access the warps into pocket universes so they can seek out more stores of vibranium.  Which leads me to finally conclude that Vibranium originates from this realm and the cataclysm that destroyed it sent meteors of the stuff through the warps it created into pocket universes…

Figure 44

…which is how it ended up in Wakanda, Antarctica, the heart of Australia and various other locations.  It’s interesting to note in Marvel Preview #7 the N’Garai were revealed as being defeated and driven from the Earth by the forces of Heaven, led by the angel Lucifer (Satana’s father), prior to his fall.  Humanity subsequently gained its freedom.  Given we are now to a point that Vibranium originated from the realm that became the Dark Dimension, and the Faltine conquer this dimension in an effort to keep the Mindless Ones from setting off further cataclysms in pocket universes in their pursuit of vibranium, might Lucifer and his host have known to drive the N’Garai from Earth because they were likewise aware of how the Dark Dimension came to be?  As to how, recall in Ghost Rider, and then Son of Satan, he had very similar facial features to Dormammu, including the flaming head.  I’d therefore posit that these flames were the flames of regency and Lucifer was the first Regent of the Dark Dimension!

Now back to Ka-Zar the Savage #11 where I’d like to point out that the story in this issue, which is the foundation from which Claremont builds his “Return of the Elder Gods” subplot on (i.e. Belasco’s efforts to free the N’Garai from their dimensional imprisonment), is titled “Children of the Damned”.  This is of particular note when you recall his regular use of the term “Damned” when referring to these demons, e.g. Kierrok THE DAMNED, the Shiatra Book of THE DAMNED and don’t get me started on Prince Gaynor the Damned (from the Conan the Barbarian story introducing Kulan Gath, another sorcerer Claremont would go on to use and reveal as a High Priest of the N’Garai).  By using this term it would appear he is suggesting this whole connection between the N’Garai and demonic transformation from exposure to “pure vibranium”.

In this same issue Pangaea’s rides and attractions began attacking Ka-Zar and crew (which they blamed on Belasco).

Figure 45

But what if their exposure to vibranium was likewise causing this?  What do inanimate objects attacking and devouring people remind you of?  The answer of course is Inferno, when the whole of New York City became demonically possessed!  Pangaea’s amusement park interestingly does resemble Dante’s Inferno, even to the extent of its entranceway having the inscription… Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Figure 43

So does this suggest the rides and attractions the park possessed by “demon spirits” too, and this was also caused by the vibranium exposure?  And if this is the case, does this finally explain why the Reavers’ computer system appeared to be growing on its own, with its former operator, Bonebreaker, comparing it to a living organism?  You’d have to agree this is a much better fix than my above suggestion of Mojoworld technology since it links it directly to the overall matter for discussion, that is, Vibranium being another source of mutation in the Marvel Universe.

And given the Atlanteans had extremely advanced technology in the lead-up to the Great Cataclysm, was the “orichalcum” they used as an energy source, including to power their vailixi, actually “vibranium” which they mined causing members of their race to mutate into “demon spirits” who were then banished by King of Atlantis, Kamuu. I’d further posit these “demon spirits” went on to conquer Lemuria and then storm the domed capital city of Atlantis under which the Vibranium mound perhaps was.

Figure 47

And the final cataclysm that sank both continents was a result of one of these “demon spirits” entering the mound, analogous to when Jakarra, T’Challa’s half-brother, was compelled to journey to the Sacred Mound after his transformation into a “demon spirit” which would unwittingly generate a cataclysmic shockwave so powerful it could destroy the earth.  Interesting to note here is that Plato’s Critias refers to orichalcum sparkling “like fire” and flashing with “red light”, which immediately brings to mind the sound constructs used by the Black Panther’s oldest foe, Klaw.  So there’s one more box ticked!

And of further note is how the young homo mermani also named Kamuu, who’d taken up the Sword of Kamuu after finding it in the sunken ruins of  Atlantis, was visited by the spirits of his air-breathing predecessors King Kamuu and Queen Zartra.

Figure 48

So had they crossed over to the spirit plane like Gateway’s ancestors, and the Lemurian “demon spirits” compelled to return to the sacred mound under Atlantis to bring about the cataclysm in an effort to access the Dreamtime/ Alchera/ Alshra and conquer and enslave the spirit world?

While on the subject of Atlantis, and post-Cataclysm King Kamuu, I need to bring up the tribe of the Unforgiven Dead, and their priest-king, Suma-Ket, first seen in Namor the Sub-Mariner #36.  Suma-Ket and his tribe came from the North as the saviour of the undersea city of Atlantis.  Ket claimed his people to be wise men who could rid Atlantis of the plague of Faceless Ones; in return, they wished merely to settle among them.  Suma-Ket freed the Atlanteans from the terror of the Faceless Ones, banishing the monstrous creatures from the city.  In awe of his mighty battle-prowess and great mystical power, the Atlanteans followed Ket, slaying their king Harran, the son of Kamuu, and proclaimed Ket as King of all Atlantis.

Figure 50a

Figure 50b

Once he was made king, the seemingly messianic Suma-Ket transformed into a demonic tyrant, bringing to Atlantis the religion of the Elder Gods and building an immense temple in the capital dedicated to these dark gods (just like Belasco).  Namor #37 reveals that Suma-Ket’s tribe “are followers of the old ways, of deities both foul and fell, dark and evil beings are they, whose cruelty offended the very gods of Olympus”…Figure 50c

…which seems similar to how Kulan Gath was driven out of Stygia for practicing sorcery forbidden even by the worshippers of Set.

Figure 50d

And with Kulan Gath later revealed as a High Priest of the N’Garai you can see where I’m going with this…

Figure 50b

Had Suma-Ket and his tribe of Unforgiven Dead been homo mermani that had settled north of the undersea city of Atlantis to mine a vibranium deposit that had sunk there after breaking off from Atlantis during the great cataclysm for their N’Garai Masters?  It’s interesting to note how Suma-Ket’s banishment of the Faceless Ones from the city of Atlantis leads to his being proclaimed its King just as Dormammu and Umar upon repelling and confining the Mindless Ones were likewise hailed heroes and proclaimed regents of the Dark Dimension.  It was also later revealed that the Faceless Ones had really been mindless servants of Ket…

Figure 50d

… which would seem to suggest, under this theory, that they had been homo mermani transformed by radiation from the vibranium mound north of Atlantis into undersea “demon spirits”; similar to perhaps how the Mindless Ones were transformed.

But I’m not stopping there in my Grand Unified Theory.

This whole plot raises in my mind a number of other mysteries introduced by Chris Claremont that could be resolved in one fell swoop, this time surrounding Xavier’s Estate in Westchester County.  Was the stone cairn carved with mystical symbols on Xavier’s Estate installed there, of all places, due to it once being the site of a Vibranium mound?

Figure 49

That is, if the N’Garai were inhabitants of Earth evolved into demons by the mineral’s energies they would be more likely to be hanging around sites with deposits of the unstable mineral!

Figure 51

The other mystery is the network of tunnels leading from Manhattan to directly beneath the hangar complex below the mansion on Xavier’s estate!

Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19).  Coincidence!?

Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19). Coincidence!?

Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Might the N’Garai demon that made its way into the mansion in Uncanny X-Men #143 have been compelled to do so because of one such mound lying beneath the massive underground complex, similar to the one below the Reavers’ base, which was constructed to mine vibranium which was then transported by train some forty miles to Manhattan for shipping to perhaps the San Francisco Mint which held the entire stock of the United States’ vibranium as revealed in Spider-Woman #37?  It’s interesting to note that Claremont introduced Siryn in this same issue as accomplice to her uncle Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut in their plan to rob the Mint of the United States’ stock of vibranium.

Figure 51

Could it be that Black Tom wasn’t just after the metal for profit?  Then why!

I believe the answer lies in Siryn’s sonic powers.

Now recall when Claremont originally introduced Black Tom his actions were primarily driven by his hate and jealousy for his cousin, Sean (Banshee).  So did Tom come to the belief that Sean’s mutant abilities were to blame for his own failures, Sean subtly using his sonic powers to manipulate the roll of the dice in the game that won him both Cassidy Keep and the family fortune in addition to winning the heart of Maeve Rourke?  Then when Sean is away on Interpol business, Tom discovers some a small deposit of vibranium in Cassidy Keep (perhaps left behind by the leprechauns) and an analysis shows its sonic properties which lead him to believe it is responsible for Sean’s mutation.  He perhaps then tried exposing himself to the sample but it wasn’t enough to impact on a fully grown adult.  Frustrated he perhaps exposes young Theresa to it without her knowledge and is surprised to discover she begins manifesting similar abilities to her father.

So yes, I’m suggesting Siryn is not necessarily your garden-variety mutant.  That is, it has always been a mystery about how Siryn came to develop the same abilities as her father, since up until her introduction while inheriting the gene responsible for mutant powers offspring did not inherit the same subset of abilities as their mutant parents.  Then in the following issue, Spider-Woman #38, Siryn is shown to be able to create illusions with her sonic powers.

Figure 52

So were her sonic powers not inherited but a result of exposure to a sample of vibranium Tom exposed her to, and her so-called “illusions” are actually inchoate sonic constructs?  And Tom’s plan to steal the United States’ vibranium was so he could expose himself to a larger concentration of the mineral and in his mind make himself a more powerful version of Banshee, thereby reclaiming his rightful status in the family as Sean’s superior (but would obviously as we know turn himself into a rampaging “demon spirit”)!

Returning to the stone cairns for a moment… there is another famous stone with mystical carvings that crops up during Claremont’s run… the tombstone that seals the portal Forge forced the Adversary through.

Figure 53

I’ve contended for years now that the Adversary was somehow connected to the N’Garai and this may have been another hint dropped by Claremont to suggest so.  During The Fall of the Mutants we are shown a scene in Vietnam where Forge uses the spirits of his fallen comrades to summon forth N’Garai demons to take revenge on the Vietcong…

Figure 54

…an action that apparently allowed the Adversary to come to Earth.

It’s also worth noting that back in his first appearance the Adversary is actually called “The Great Spirit” so might this resolve the connection and suggest Claremont intend to later reveal him as leader of all the “demon spirits”?

Figure 54

But back to Siryn… if her sonic powers were not inherited from her father, but rather a result of exposure to vibranium, we need to look to what other Marvel’s heroes this may have likewise been the case for.

And I’m not suggesting only looking for those characters with abilities similar to Klaw, the Sultan of Sound!

I’d firstly nominate another Marvel character with vibratory powers was the global terrorist, Moses Magnum. Obsessed with weapons, he became the head of a major global weapons manufacturer.  Initially dealing with chemical weapons, after a blistering defeat at the hands of Spider-Man and the Punisher, he turned his attention to mining operations.  After a confrontation with the hero known as Power Man, Magnum fell down a shaft which his laser drill had bored to the centre of the Earth.  To Magnum’s surprise, he was saved from the fall by Apocalypse (cf. Classic X-Men #25) who transformed him so that he was able to generate concussive force and seismic powers.

apocalypse22

The first use of Moses Magnum’s new abilities and technology came during his assault on the isles of Japan, where he was confronted and defeated by the X-Men (cf. Uncanny X-Men #118-119).  I’d suggest Magnum had manifested these particular powers as a result of Apocalypse exposing him to a sample of vibranium.

Next I’d nominate another character Apocalypse had his hand in transforming; Cable, one of the most powerful telepaths/ telekinetics on the planet.  Now recall when he was baby in X-Factor, Nathan was shown with a force-field power (think Unus the Untouchable), which really could be separate and have had nothing to do with his psionic abilities.

cable01

This would seem to suggest Cable’s true mutant power is to generate a force-field, and the psionic powers come from a different source.  So what is that source, you ask!  What’s really interesting here is that T’Challa is exposed to vibranium radiation and suddenly develops psionic abilities, making me believe that Cable’s enhanced psionic abilities were a result of his own exposure to vibranium radiation which I’d suggest emerged as a result of the Techno-Organic Virus Apocalypse infected him with…

Nathan infected by Apocalypse

…a virus which derived from Anti-Metal he mined from his base in the Savage Land.

jungleadventure

I’d next suggest that Killraven’s heightened perceptions, especially his ESP hallucinations…

Figure 61

… are akin to those developed by T’Challa in Black Panther #10 after he is exposed to “pure vibranium”.

Figure 50a

Figure 50b

Figure 50c

So when earlier was young Jonathan exposed to vibranium?  To determine that answer I’m proposing that he was raised in the Savage Land and that his parents were in fact Lord Kevin Plunder and Shanna O’Hara! But the son of Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil was named Matthew and Jonathan Raven’s mother was named Maureen?

What I’m proposing here is that while growing up as a child in the Savage Land with his parents, Matthew was in close proximity to the vibranium deposits there, which granted him ESP which lay dormant until the stress of experimentation by Keeper Whitman caused them to finally manifest.  Knowing these abilities had the potential to defeat the Martians…

Figure 58

…Ka-Zar and Shanna separated, Ka-Zar remaining behind in the Savage Land to defend it from invasion, Shanna fleeing with young Matthew to New York City where she changed their names, adopting Maureen, after Maureen O’Hara her famous namesake, and the surname Raven since it is Middle English for Plunder!  Then consider the Panther’s vibranium in the light of Frank Herbert’s Dune, and the spice, it seems like telepathy, but then it also seems like clairvoyance, as perhaps ungovernable telepathy would.  But maybe it’s neither of those.  Maybe it’s a space-time effect!  I would posit here that T’Challa’s exposure to the pure vibranium makes him not able to necessarily “read” minds, but rather make contact, i.e. he’s touching them, he’s there… it’s a distance effect.  In this whole Vibranium plot Chris Claremont makes even more explicit reference to Dune in Uncanny X-Men #251, where he has one the Reavers specifically refer to Psylocke as a “mentat”.

Figure 65

I’d therefore extend Killraven’s psionic abilities to being an extension of T’Challa’s likewise caused from exposure to Vibranium while raised by his parents Ka-Zar and Shanna in the Savage Land, and reintroduce him as Marvel’s version of Muad’Dib!  I’d further posit M’Shulla Scott was perhaps a sleeper agent from Wakanda sent to join the Freeman (?Marvel Fremen?) to secretly mentor him in the use of these abilities!  And that the Martians were really on Earth to mine Vibranium so they could then use it to “fold space” in order to return to their original homeworld!

Then there’s, of course, Matt Murdock.  That is, was the radioactive substance inside the drum that fell from the truck and spilled directly onto his eyes some form of vibranium?

Figure 53
It is rather interesting that the Savage Land variant (i.e. Anti-Metal) is first introduced in of all series Daredevil, and the only issue illustrated by Jack Kirby to boot.

Figure 54

And isn’t it further interesting that the substance from the accident not only gave Matt heightened senses but a sonar that allowed him to “see” through sonic vibrations!?

Figure 55

And his costumed identity in effect makes him a “demon spirit” protecting those in Hell’s Kitchen!  As T’Challa states above “DEVILISH metal” indeed!

While on the subject of Anti-Metal, the unstable variant of Wakandan vibranium, might this provide a further explanation for what is behind Marvel’s famous “Unstable Molecules”?  Is it these molecules which make vibranium so unstable in the first place?  While previously considered to be an invention of Reed Richards…

Figure 67a

…recall that the Fantastic Four did not obtain their costumes that adapted to their powers until after three of the four Skrulls they fought in Fantastic Four #2 were captured (while one of the four Skrulls in this issue escaped you’ll recall Ben Grimm did not require a costume that adapted to his Thing state since it didn’t change).

Figure 67bb

In this issue Skrull clothes were shown to adapt to whatever they needed…

Figure 67c

…suggesting they are made of unstable molecules, and it is not until issue #3 that Sue appears with three unstable molecule costumes.

Figure 67d

While on the subject of the Skrulls, it is interesting that their shape-changing cousins, the Dire Wraiths, are red-scaled monstrosities like T’Challa’s cousin.

Figure 67e

Then if you recall that the Martians in H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds are revealed as not native to Mars, might this suggest these invaders in Killraven are in fact Dire Wraiths and the real reason behind their invasion is to obtain vibranium to kickstart their shape-changing abilities which they perhaps lost after the activation of the Hyper-Wave Bomb?

Figure 67f

Tales to Astonish #35, released in the exact same month as first mention of unstable molecules in Fantastic Four, reveals Hank Pym’s own Ant-Man costume was made from unstable molecules…

Figure 68a

…which leads me to further suggest the dimension of Kosmos, from which Pym draws his “growth pollen”, also contains vibranium energy which is why the Pilai were similarly monstrously scaled…

Figure 68b

…and it is this energy (i.e. unstable molecules) which is the true science behind his ability to alter his size.

While on the subject of “unstable molecules”, when Claremont wrote X-Men Forever he reintroduced Gambit as Remy Picard (no longer able to have him as a psionic projection of Scott’s boyhood friend Nathan from the orphanage)…

Figure 69a

…fans assumed this was a veiled reference to the character being a fan of Patrick Stewart’s character in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  However, what if Claremont was instead using Picard to refer to Remy’s being French as it is a surname meaning a person from a historical region and cultural area of France?  So basically Gambit is Remy from Picardy, or at least his true family as intended by Claremont.  So which other characters did Claremont write that came from this region of France?  Well none that I’ve been able to find, but Picardy was famous for being where founding members of the Knights Templars, Godfrey de Saint-Omer, hailed from.  So was Claremont intending to reveal Gambit by this stage as descended from the Knights Templar?  The Knights Templar were rumoured to be protecting a secret treasure, so what if this treasure was vibranium?  And the Guilds are modern day Knights Templars attempting to reclaim this treasure?  And what if that treasure is a bloodline?  And that bloodline is Ororo’s?  That is, throughout Storm’s history she has shown an unusual ability to manipulate and shape unstable molecules into different kinds of clothing with ease.

Figure 69b

Figure 69c

Figure 69d

So might this finally explain the Shadow King’s long obsession with her!?  He realises this ability means she effectively has the ability to shape vibranium.  And this is the reason behind Gambit’s initial pairing up with Stormie!

Figure 69e

But this isn’t the end of the theory and to get closer to that point I must return to the underlying origins of the Marvel Universe itself, in particular Thor #169, where Galactus is revealed to have been the scientist/ explorer Galan who was the only individual from the planet Taa to survive a space plague as a result of absorbing its radiation causing him to be transformed into the devourer of worlds.

Figure 60b

This was retconned somewhat by Mark Gruenwald & John Byrne in Super Villain Classics #1 (1983), where it was revealed that Taa actually existed in the pre-Big Bang universe, thus establishing in Marvel canon that a universe existed prior to the current one, and that Galan/ Galactus came from this universe.

Figure 60

While I liked some of this origin (the appearing to different races differently), making him a Cosmic Principle was a little too comfortable.

As usual, I’ll go back to Stan and Jack, which makes Galactus being from a universe in another dimension possible.  So what was that dimension?  Well we know Galan was a scientist and informed people of an impending cataclysm not only to Taa, but their system as well.

Figure 60e

Figure 60f

When inhabitants of Taa began dying of the radiation wave responsible for the cataclysm and even their advanced skills could not prevent it, Galan, believing at least one of his race to be immune to the radiation…

Figure 60h

…and determined that the glory and grandeur of their civilisation must live on…

Figure 60g

…persuaded the remaining survivors to join him on his space vessel by flying into the source of the plague, what was designated as “the largest sun in the(ir) universe”.

Figure 60i

Galan’s crewmen were said to have all died.  At this point I’d suggest that this sun was the original source of vibranium and the space plague was caused by the mineral at its core increasing entropy which began destabilising the molecules within the cells of Taa’s inhabitants leading to planet-wide death.  I’d further suggest that just before Galan would also die from the vibranium radiation, the sun generated a final shockwave so massive it shattered the dimension, creating warps into pocket dimensions.  Because Galan was so close to the sun he took the full brunt of this shockwave and was thrown into one of these warps and was sent hurtling into our universe.  Having been in the direct path of the shockwave before being thrown into the warp, Galan absorbed so much vibranium energy he came out the other end having transformed into Galactus, whose hunger for planets is perhaps explained by his needing to feed an addiction to vibranium.  I’d further suggest that Galan’s crewmen did not die before he was thrown into the dimensional warp but survived to become the Mindless Ones whose singular drive is to breach the Dark Dimension’s great mystical barrier so they can access the warps into pocket universes in an effort to seek out stores of vibranium similar to Galactus, but on a smaller scale given they were not in the direct path of their sun’s final shockwave and so did not absorb its final burst of vibranium radiation.

Figure 60j

So yes, in my Grand Unified Theory this makes the realm that later became the Dark Dimension, the universe where Galactus originated.

Now that we’ve been back to the possible origins of the Marvel Universe, we find ourselves almost back at the beginning of this article and another Kirby creation, the source of mutation in the Marvel Universe the Terrigen Mists, those rays responsible for providing the Inhumans with their powers.  Terrigen means “earth-producing” which would suggest the Kree Sentry in Thor #147 was not telling the entire story…

Figure 68a

…and the mists were produced by them from extensive heating of some mineral on Earth; perhaps vibranium!?  This would appear to be a tenuous link to vibranium until one considers king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, whose exposure to the mists gave him a “sonic scream” capable of vibrating electrons to the extent that his merest whisper can level buildings.

Figure 68b

Then recall the metallic trim on Black Bolt’s costume looks like a V radiating from his body, which was perhaps a hint to the true source of his powers.

Figure 68c

Then consider the fork-shaped antenna that Black Bolt wore upon his brow since childhood enabled him to channel his powers in more directed, less destructive ways.  When shown here his channelled powers are mentioned as “deeply… corroding ALL metal…”

Figure 70d

…which couldn’t be anything but a blatant reference to the Antarctic variant of Vibranium, also known as Anti-Metal, and its ability to break “the molecular bondings of ALL other metals” (i.e. the ultimate corrosive), especially when revealed in another Kirby story of all places!

In addition, Black Bolt’s vow of silence due to the cataclysmic potential of his voice brings to mind Gateway’s own silence apparent during Claremont’s run.  So was Claremont attempting to suggest the ancient Aborigine had likewise taken a vow of silence due to similar capabilities of his voice caused by exposure to the vibranium mound in outback Australia?

Figure 69a

Figure 69

Might this further suggest Gateway’s bull-roarer acts in a similar fashion to Black Bolt’s tuning fork in that when he spins it he is disrupting electrons in their air, which in his case opened teletransportational wormholes in space?

Good enough for me to say ©J C. N 2013

Postscript: Now that I’ve done all the heavy lifting who wants to have a go at explaining why Roma chose this abandoned mining town, occupied by a band of sadistic, cybernetic super-criminals, to insert the X-Men after restoring them to life following their sacrifice at the conclusion of The Fall of the Mutants?  Was it a) so they could access advanced computer systems to detect problems and crises around the planet and the abilities of Gateway so they could respond accordingly, b) to help Gateway break the “geas” that bound him to Reavers, or c) to prevent the “outsign spirits” from spreading across the Dreamlands?

Post-postscript: Oh and you know what other mystery connecting Vibranium to Limbo leads me to after some brief musing?  The Singing Sword, Excalibur, and Avalon!  Which for some reason leads me to Prester John, whom after finding the fabled isle of Avalon…

Figure 61b

…and sitting in the Siege Perilous appeared to fall into a form of suspended animation, only to be found centuries later in a deep underground cavern beneath the African desert north of Wakanda by the Human Torch and Wyatt Wingfoot.

Figure 61a

So how might the mystery behind Prester John and Avalon tie into my revelations regarding Limbo and the origin of Vibranium?

Acknowledgements: Thanks go out to fnord12 of the Marvel Comics Chronology – for his continued assistance in compiling some of the more obscure comic panel scans here – Teebore of Gentlemen of Leisure, bipedal mammal of Estoreal, Richard Bensam, Rob Johnson of the Iron Man Library and Bad Man of Bad Haven for the remainder I required, in addition to comic book scholar and writer/ editor of the Unofficial Appendix to the Marvel Universe, Michael Hoskin, for compelling me to begin piecing together a worthwhile origin for Vibranium.  But my biggest thanks must go to the inimitable Jason Powell who here, moreso than any other blog post I’ve written previously, has made me begin to live up to his designation of me lo’ those many years ago as “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”.  Though I’m requesting if you’re out there in the blogosphere, Jason, that you now need to upgrade this description to “He Who Can create a Grand Unified Theory for the Marvel Universe Given Enough Time”;)

…bad Galactus stories?

Bad Galactus stories

Fantastic Four aficionado, Chris Tolworthy, comes to the rescue with this second guest post in quick succession to his last, here!

This “how would you fix” is about pretty much every Galactus story after the original classic.  Even the good ones raise difficult questions; and the bad ones are awful.  Yet there is a logic to them if we look closely.  A solution is found by comparing Fantastic Four #262, Annual #23 and #604.  Yes, #604.  Normally I run screaming from any Fantastic Four number dated after 1990, but this one deserves attention.

Before continuing, I must stress that I rely heavily on the Fantastic Four as the core text, and mainly issues before #322.  I refer to very few others.  I am an unrepentant Fantastic Four fanboy, and am apt to pick holes in other comics while defending the Fantastic Four as Great Literature, so be warned.  Also, spoilers ahead…

Let’s start with the problem with later Galactus stories.  Fantastic Four #48-50 (the Galactus trilogy, and more) is the gold standard for superhero comics.  Utterly superb.  Yet later appearances (even by Stan Lee… well actually ESPECIALLY by Stan Lee) show a different and inferior Galactus.  Here are some examples:

1. The original Galactus visit was a one off event.  The Watcher said of these forces “you shall never see their like again!”  Yet we allegedly “see their like again” regularly in later years.

2. Galactus seems unaware of where the Skrull throne world should be.  So either he travels so widely that he would not expect to visit the same galaxy twice within a few thousand years, or he travels at random and avoids maps.  Either way, why does he keep coming back to Earth?

3. “Of all who inhabit the known universe, only GALACTUS has powers enough to match my own!” – so said the Watcher.  We can quibble over the exact meaning of this phrase, but at the very least we cannot expect any Earth bound power or collection of powers to defeat him.  Yet in later appearances he is routinely defeated.

4. The Silver Surfer is different.  The original Surfer features in Skrull history books, books that less informed Skrulls have not read, suggesting that he’s been around a long time.  But there is no indication in the origin that the Surfer is any younger than Galactus.  Galactus seems unaware of the Surfer’s full power: “Your power is far greater than I suspected, herald.”  The surfer does not understand beauty or self-sacrifice: “there is a word some races use… a word I have never understood… until now!  At last I know… BEAUTY!” and “I have learned from the HUMANS how glorious it can be to have a cause worth dying for!”  Yet in later appearances we are told that Norrin Rad became the Surfer in order to save his home world, and his beloved Shalla Bal, who can still pass for a young woman (cf. Fantastic Four #153-155).  Granted, perhaps the Surfer’s race lives a long time, but this really sounds like a different person.

5. The original Galactus does not get hungry quickly: “All ETERNITY awaits me! I can afford to be patient!”  Yet the later Galactus is always hungry: “You must be swift! My hunger grows UNENDURABLE!” (FF76)

6. The original Galactus can never lie.  “The promise of GALACTUS is living TRUTH itself! His word can never be questioned!”  Yet when he came back he said he promised never to return, but was considering breaking the promise.  (Actually he never promised not to return, he simply promised not to tarry, so this is another change.)

7. The original Galactus is part of an advanced race.  As the Watcher said, “Did not YOUR race… and MINE… evolve from such humble beginnings?”  Yet the later Galactus was a lone survivor of a world that, while more advanced than ours, was more like “gnats” than “gods.”

8. The original Galactus has a symbol of an eternal arrow on his chest (often mistaken for a letter G).  Later Galactuses do not.  They also alternate with sleeves or not, visible eyes or not, highly muscular arms or not.  The ship changes completely as well: from a sphere to a wing to a cube.

9. I gather that other comics feature problematic origin stories.  I think those problems will resolve themselves once we understand what Galactus is and how he operates.

Now let’s look at a solution to the problems.  Our first exhibit is the backup story in Fantastic Four Annual #23.  It follows from a similar backup story in Annual 22, and both could be considered together.  They give an overview of the highest powers in the universe, and I would like to draw your attention to a comment about the Celestials.  A certain character in another comic was shown defeating Celestials.  But that is just because it suited the Celestials for him to believe that.  The stories also show that scale is largely an illusion, and there is much we do not know (the Beyonders, for example, are barely known at all).  This is as we should expect: advanced beings are not like us.  They do not look or think or act like us.  We can draw some conclusions, but those conclusions may be surprising. Let’s go, shall we?

Advanced beings probably operate on higher dimensions.  This means one being might have multiple appearances in this world.  Imagine your 3D body appearing in a 2D world.  Like putting your hand slowly through the 2D surface of a bath of water.  To that surface, your hand appears as 5 separate shapes, then those shapes join, change shape, get thicker… one being appears as multiple slightly different beings!  We can see this already in the real world: as people we exist online as avatars.  One person can have many avatars at the same time.  As Artificial Intelligence improves, our avatars could even answer questions on our behalf.  We can exist as multiple beings!

Now recall the Watcher’s comment that there are basically just two powerful beings: the Watcher and Galactus.  It seems reasonable to suppose that the Beyonders, Celestials, etc., are merely aspects of Galactus.  Galactus tests planets (eating those that cannot hide), the Celestials test planets (Arishem the judge), the Beyonders test planets (by providing rewards for those who reach a certain level), and so on.  I further submit that each Galactus is a different aspect of the one Galactus, hence the different appearance, history, and behaviour.  The Surfer may also have been raised to a higher dimension to gain his powers, explaining his different versions.

Our next exhibit is Fantastic Four #262, and follows from the previous discussion: we are shown (in the Trial of Reed Richards) that each civilisation sees Galactus in its own image.  We have the Galactus that most suits us at a particular time.  Remember that the highest powers in the universe tend to personify concepts, such as Eternity, or the Living Tribunal.  It seems likely that the Watchers personify knowledge and Galactus personifies testing or truth (the same thing).  It is only natural that these concepts change according to who interacts with them.

The final exhibit is Fantastic Four #604, the climax to Jonathan Hickman’s long arc.  My view is that after issue #321 we see different realities slipping in and out of focus, so I take most later stories with a pinch of salt (with the exception of Claremont’s run: he appears to use the original Fantastic Four).  However, Franklin exists across dimensions, so every Franklin appearance counts as canon.  But this is not an essay about Franklin, so I will cut to the chase.  I did warn you about spoilers, didn’t I?  OK, here is the conclusion to Hickman’s 50 issue arc: Galactus is the herald of Franklin.  Yes, you read that right.  Don’t act horrified.  It makes sense if we step back and look at the nature of Franklin’s power.

Franklin basically connects realities.  I won’t go into details, but he is a doorkeeper.  He lets the entire universe (or a part of it) slip into an alternate universe.  By letting people switch universes he appears to be creating or changing entire universes, but it’s more subtle than that.  It’s more like connecting doorways, except you do not physically walk through any door, the normal passage of time does the walking for you.  It’s all quite simple and subtle really. As Annual #23 said, scale is an illusion.  But this is not an essay about Franklin.

If Franklin’s power is to connect universes, and Galactus personifies testing, it follows naturally that Galactus is the herald of Franklin because every test leads to a new state of the universe (e.g. one where we have defeated Galactus or one where we are destroyed).  All the rest of it, the explosions and battles and Kirby dots and such, is just how we experience this higher dimensional testing and connecting.  Galactus only appears in his big G form when the test is of a particular type.

OK, with that understanding (Galactus adapts to us, and is attracted to Franklin), let us examine the appearances of Galactus in the core Fantastic Four timeline:

Fantastic Four #48-50: this was the great test. Galactus finds the Earth at random, and he represents all the grandeur of the universe, as you would expect.  Notice that the Ultimate Nullifier is basically a crude Franklin tool: it jumps everything to a different reality.

The next appearance of Galactus, Fantastic Four 74: One year later (1967) Sue learns she is pregnant with Franklin.  She learns in Annual #5, a Microverse story.  Soon after, in another Microverse story, Galactus feels drawn back to Earth against his will (“Galactus did VOW to NEVER RETURN– and yet, he is HERE!”) and is inexplicably desperately hungry.  Ironically the boys are rushing around like mad things (seriously this is probably the busiest arc ever) and they think they are letting Sue rest.  But the real story is going on inside Sue’s womb: Franklin’s stress hormones are dragging Galactus to Earth.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #122: Franklin’s life is relatively uneventful for a few years (except for the birth, but this was probably a Caesarian due to the complications, so Franklin probably didn’t feel too stressed).  But by the age of four Franklin is old enough to realise what is going on, and it coincides with the beginnings of the family problems that I call Act Four.  (Although Franklin is four years old in 1972 he only lets himself appear as two years old.)  Franklin must be worried, as Galactus is drawn back to the Earth, and acts like a four year old: he looks like a toy soldier with bulging muscles, and acts very dumb (tripped over by Ben, and has an easy to access spacecraft with a gigantic self-destruct button).  He even plays with a roller coaster and giant train set.  He is basically molded to Franklin’s four year old brain.  He is announced by Franklin’s nanny, Agatha Harkness, Agatha watches throughout, and he (Galactus) ends up in Franklin’s home turf, the Negative Zone.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #172: Though Franklin is brain zapped in the #140s he isn’t really aware of this (he is far more concerned with what happens to his family).  Franklin is next aware of major problems when his uncle Ben fights against the family, then loses his powers and is replaced and fights them again.  Franklin’s eight year old brain (appearing as three years old) has a typical eight year old solution: he unconsciously has a new, better Earth built, and summons Galactus there so his family can prove once again that they do the right thing.  And how does his eight year old brain get rid of Galactus this time?  By giving him indigestion!

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #212: Franklin is getting older and better at controlling things: Galactus is becoming more of a friend.  The family experiences a new crisis – Sue and Reed and Ben age and almost die, so Franklin unconsciously summons Galactus to help against the Sphinx.  Obviously he doesn’t just say “come here Galactus” – it is all unconscious through manipulating reality so that others do the job, but the result is the same.  When he finally masters his powers in Fantastic Four #604 then yes, he does say “to me, my Galactus.”  Of course Galactus still asks for his dinner, but that is just how the test always goes, and the family always passes the test.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #243-44: The most traumatic experience in Franklin’s life (pre-Waid) is when he is hung upside down as fresh meat for Annihilus.  This trauma not only drags his parents back from Reed’s Negative Zone debacle, but also drags Galactus along.  By now Galactus and Franklin are best buds in whatever higher plane they occupy.  It plays out in this reality as Reed saving the big G’s life and becoming BFF.  And that ends the Galactus threat.  At least as far as the original Fantastic Four is concerned (i.e. pre 1989, pre Fantastic Four #322).

As for other appearances, origin stories, etc., what we see is merely our four dimensional glimpse of a five dimensional reality.  We only ever see a partial Galactus, a Galactus-adapted-to-our-needs, or more likely a story made up by the Bullpen.  Only the Fantastic Four report directly to the Bullpen: other comics include wild speculation, especially where secret identities are concerned.  So we should not get too hung up on the details if some other version of Galactus is a bit odd.  Untangling it is half the fun.

Note: Fantastic Four #257 was part of their seventh encounter, when they had become friends.  Note the Biblical significance (6 is struggle, as in 666, 7 represents peace, as in resting on the seventh day, 7 angels, etc.). The Fantastic Four have six battles, leading to the seventh encounter as friends. Hmmm.

…Aunt Petunia’s age?

This guest post comes from foremost Fantastic Four scholar, Chris Tolworthy.  Chris holds the unconventional view that the Fantastic Four (from 1961 to 1988) was the Great American Novel, and equivalent to Shakespeare.  This essay is typical of the stuff he finds every time he opens a comic, and why his site will never be finished.  Over to you Chris…

Since 1964, Ben Grimm (The Thing) has referred to his “old aunt Petunia” as a source of wisdom. Note the word “old.”  But in Fantastic Four #238-239 we finally see her, and she is young.  How young?  She looks to be in her 20s or 30s.  O’Hoolihan calls Petunia “a foin broth of a girl” and Johnny considers her attractive.  Assuming an upper age of 35, and with the stretching time scale between 1961 and 1982, she was born after 1935.  But for Ben to have fought in WWII he left home in 1945 at the latest.  Petunia would have been 10 or younger when she was dishing out old lady advice to a teenage Ben.  More seriously, she was supposedly a qualified nurse and possibly even married to Uncle Jake at this time.  The numbers do not add up.

Figure 1: Ben’s “old aunt Petunia”, from Fantastic Four #239, page 5.

As an aside, Petunia has a highly dated name.  Flower names (rose, lily, iris, etc.) had an explosion in popularity around the year 1900, but the fashion soon ended.  Babycenter.com now ranks Petunia as number 12,986 in popularity (compared with the dated but still possible Susan at 840 and relatively trendy Alicia at 185).  Everything points to Petunia being a generation older than Ben, and not a married nine year old graduate.

However, the story suggests a solution.  Petunia appears to ask Ben’s help with problems in the town.  We learn that ancient earth spirits are causing the bad people to face their inner demons and die, and the solution is to get the bad people to leave.  Only a handful of good people are left, including Petunia and Jake, and a girl called Wendy who spends time with the spirits.  Perhaps Petunia also spends time with them?  Wendy does not tell people what she knows about the spirits.  At the end of the book she is shown with the spirits, a fact not revealed to anybody.  But if it was not revealed, how was it in the book?  In the Fantastic Four we only see what the team tell Marvel: if the team don’t know about it then it can’t go in the book (cf. Fantastic Four #10, #176).  How, then, did they know Wendy’s secret?  Presumably somebody else had experience with the spirits.. Who else could it be but Petunia?  Jake is not mobile, but Petunia is feisty and curious: another Wendy.  Petunia would have explored there as a small girl (face it, there was not much else to do) and, like Wendy, would have discovered the spirits.  Perhaps “Wendy’s friends” are not just the spirits, but also Jake and Petunia.

Figure 2: Ben’s Uncle Jake was once angry we are told, from Fantastic Four #239, page 7.

Jake is also another version of Wendy’s father: he was once angry, we are told.  He comes from a time when men were often violent, and Ben comes from a culture of violent gang members.  But now Jake is at peace.  Perhaps Wendy’s tale is also Petunia’s tale.  Perhaps it is really all about Jake, but like Wendy, Petunia and Ben are too loyal to ever speak against him.  Jake had to face his inner demons, the demons of the violent earth that made his generation (the last generation to sweep the Native Americans away): he had to reap the whirlwind.  Notice that redemption comes from the land itself.  The American settlers lose their thirst to conquer the land and begin to cooperate with it.  The Grimm story is the story of the people of the land.  Note that none of this contradicts “second wife” or “many years younger” story.  But the significance is not that a 50 year old man married a 9 year old, the significance is that a 50 year old man married a 30 year old who healed his anger.

This raises several questions.

First, did Petunia move to Arizona too late to be this young? She said they moved to Arizona “shortly before” Fantastic Four #1.  But why would two New Yorkers choose Arizona?  Seems a long way from New York – where they trying to escape?  Or did they already have connections there?

Second, Jake is portrayed as a nice middle class doctor who was only angry because of his legs.  He contrasts with Ben’s alcoholic father and gang leader brother.  In The Thing #2 we see how Ben idolised his brother, but then his brother was killed in a gang fight, and Ben went to live with Uncle Jake.  Later Ben became leader of the same Yancy Street Gang; and only THEN did Jake talk to Ben about leaving the gang.

Something does not add up. While it is possible that a lower class alcoholic has a middle class doctor for a brother, it is statistically unlikely.  More seriously, Jake knew that Ben’s favourite brother was killed in a gang fight.  Why did Jake wait until Ben was gang leader before suggesting it was a bad idea?  It sounds like Jake was saw gang membership, including stabbing, as perfectly acceptable.

Third, we are told that people disapproved of Jake marrying a much younger woman.  But the numbers suggest this was only a man in his fifties marrying a woman in her thirties – unusual but hardly a scandal.

Which leads to our next curiosity:

Fourth, why did Petunia have such an influence on Ben?  According to The Thing #2, Ben was raised by his aunt Alyce, and Petunia did not arrive on the scene until later.  Ben was a gang leader while Petunia was a student nurse who claims she never questioned anything Jake did.  Why would Ben be influenced by Petunia more than Alyce?  Petunia’s story is all very neat – far TOO neat.  Jake was an idealised man?  Jake needed the excuse of an injury to explain why he met this nurse?  But he was a doctor in a busy hospital (cf. Fantastic Four #238, 257): he worked with nurses all the time!  Then it took years for Petunia to be Jake’s student and then eventually his wife, and then become an influence on Ben?  There isn’t enough time.  And Petunia never questioned Jake? This doesn’t sound like a woman that the rebellious Ben would idolise.

A simpler explanation is that Jake was seeing Petunia before the accident, and we are hearing the sanitised version of events.  I am not suggesting that Jake killed his wife deliberately.  But if Jake was seeing somebody then his marriage may not have been a happy one: Jake’s brother was an alcoholic.  It’s easy to see how Jake might have been driving after drinking, and having a lot on his mind.  That would explain why he and Petunia wanted to move from their home in New York and get as far away as possible: accidentally killing your wife then marrying your much younger mistress is quite a scandal, and they would want to get away.

In short, Jake was not innocent.  Though Petunia probably is.  Petunia must have a pure heart, to survive being friends with the spirits.

Fifth potential problem: if Petunia knew about the spirits, why didn’t she tell Ben?  For the same reason that Wendy kept them secret, right to the end.  Some things are best not discussed.  But why would Petunia come to ask help from Ben if she could already talk to the spirits?  Because the evil in the town is causing deaths, and she needs help to get the bad people out of there.  Wendy did not tell everything she knew, so why should Petunia?

Finally, why did Ben not notice that Petunia had not aged?  Reed notes that the spirits may still be around in ten thousand years.  Like the Native American “ancient ones” found by the Miracle Man, they appear to have slowed aging to an almost standstill.  Being around time-stretching superheroes keeps a person young (as noted in the fourth-wall-breaking She-Hulk book), so perhaps being around these earth spirits will slow aging to a crawl.  This would explain why Petunia had barely aged since Ben knew her when Ben was a child (and 35 then seemed ancient).  This also explains why Ben does not notice that Petunia has not aged: time dilation in comics is never noticed by those who experience it.

…Call-Out!

Call-Out

Due to the ongoing nature of my health issues, I’ve been privately approaching bloggers to contribute guest FIXES of their own to maintain interest in this site while I need to be absent for long periods.

While I’ve had wonderful contributions from Plok, Tony of The Wastebasket and fnord12 at SuperMegaMonkey’s Marvel Comics Chronology, this has obviously not been enough.

I’m therefore calling out to writers across the Comics Blogosphere who feel a burning urge to make public a secretly held FIX for a retcon they hated or an abandoned plot they felt they could resolve better than the “top-flight industry johnny-come-latelies” who tried and failed miserably.

If you’re interested, please Leave a Reply to this Post indicating a topic from the list below, or suggest your own which you’ve been desperate to get out there (also remembering to include your email so I can get in touch):

…the origin of Homo Mermanus;

…Janet Van Dyne’s resemblance to Maria Pym;

…Rick Jones’s resemblance to Bucky Barnes;

…the true origin of Dr. Doom;

…Lucifer’s origin (not a Quist);

…Stranger’s origin;

…the origin of the Merlin Stones;

…why Quicksilver had to return to Transia to recharge his powers;

…Galactus’s origin;

…Silver Surfer’s origin (ret-conning Norrin Radd);

…Vision’s origin (what caught Ant-Man’s eye if his innards weren’t those of the original Human Torch);

…the origin of the Black Knight’s Ebony Blade;

…Magda’s whereabouts;

…Thanos’s origin (i.e. his mother was a Skrull so why was a Skrull colony hiding on Uranus);

…Omega the Unknown’s connection to James-Michael Starling;

…Immortus’s origin (if not Kang);

…the identity of the Mantis’s son, Quoi, to be Groot;

…who was the true master of the Magneto-robot and Mesmero behind the Demi-Men plot (ret-conning Machinesmith);

…Wolverine’s origin;

…the origin of the New Salemites;

…Jessica Drew’s origin (addressing her being a Childe of the Darkhold);

…the retcon of the Eternals/ Deviants/ Celestials into the Marvel Universe – pending?

…the Asgardian Destroyer’s origin (without resorting to the Celestials);

…Luna’s origin (to be daughter of Crystal and Johnny Storm, not Quicksilver);

…Nebula’s origin (not the grand-daughter of Thanos);

…Nightcrawler’s mother (without resorting to Irene Adler);

…Selene’s connection to Magma;

…Beyonder’s origin (Quoi or Ahura, son of Black Bolt and Medusa);

…the Demon Bear’s connection to the Adversary;

…the Beast of the Hand’s origin;

…the Devil in the Marvel Universe;

…the Kingpin’s hire goon in the Daredevil graphic novel, Love and War, looking a lot like Garrett, the SHIELD/ CIA cyborg;

…the Scourge of the Underworld’s true origin;

…Mr. Sinister’s “real” reason for wanting the Morlock’s massacred;

…the X-Men’s invisibility to cameras;

…Roughhouse and Bloodsport’s connection to Asgard;

…the identities of the Twelve (retaining their original purpose to lead mutantkind into the future);

…Firebird (Bonita Juarez’s) origin;

…what happened to the REAL Terminus (referred to in Uncanny X-Men Annual #12);

…The Dane Curse;

…what became of Thomas & William Maximoff (i.e. Cable and Stryfe)?

…Psylocke’s transformation into an Anglo-Chinese (as originally intended by Chris Claremont);

…Ahab’s origin (including how he’s related to Rogue);

…Gambit’s origin – pending;

…Cable’s origin;

…Askani’s identity;

…Shatterstar’s origin (you know you can do better than PAD);

…X-Traitor plotline;

…Darkhawk’s origin (without resorting to the Fraternity of Raptors);

…Emma Frost’s origin;

…Doom 2099’s origin;

…the Crossing (without resorting to reveal its characters as Space Phantoms);

…Exodus’s origin (recalling the original Shi’ar features);

…Deathcry’s origin;

…Monet and Penance’s origins;

…Blink’s origin;

…the ending of Marvel 2099;

…Xorn’s origin;

…Blade’s origin;

…Deadpool’s parentage (can you say Terror Inc.);

…Fantomex’s origin;

…the truth behind the Green Flame that transformed Alan Scott into a Green Lantern;

…Wonder Woman’s origin – pending;

…Spectre and Phantom Stranger’s origins;

…Qull’s prophecy (without resorting to the Sinestro Corps War);

…Bane’s origin;

…the Valiant Universe after Jim Shooter left;

…what occurs to Hellspawn during the Ordeal of the Dark Carcass;

…Boba Fett’s origin;

…the origin of Master Sifo-Dyas from Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones; or

…suggest your own!

…Crystal’s infidelity?

Crystal gets a lot of disrespect from Avengers fans for her occasional lapses in marital fidelity, but I feel her actions could be understood in a different light.

Crystal is the second-oldest “young” superheroine in the Marvel Universe. The Invisible Girl, the Wasp, and even the Scarlet Witch were all depicted as fully grown women from their first appearances (although Wanda was portrayed as younger when she joined the Avengers than she first appeared to be in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). Only Marvel Girl of the X-Men predates Crystal in the role of superheroic ingénue.

In a sense, Crystal was created to be a romance interest. From her first appearance in Fantastic Four #45 it was clear that she was meant for Johnny Storm, and we never saw the human Torch more proactive or more motivated than when he was trying to get to Crystal. She in turn seems to have had a “love at first sight” experience (nicely portrayed from her perspective for the first time in the Fantastic Four: Fireworks limited series). This mutual passion led to Crystal being willing for the first time to defy her family and risk everything to be with Johnny, leading to the dry-run Romeo and Juliet plotline which avoided the rather permanently tragic ending.

Later, Crystal came to live at the Baxter building as a member of the Fantastic Four (although there was absolutely NO indication that there were ever any nocturnal wanderings on her or Johnny’s part – Crystal and Johnny seem to have had the sort of chaste love that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 1960’s My Love comic). She and Johnny seemed to be happily joined at the hip for a while until Crystal’s health deteriorated because of the pollutants of modern civilisation and she had to return to Attilan.

It was whilst returning to Attilan that Crystal became enmeshed in a plot of Diablo’s and eventually was taken by Lockjaw to the wounded Quicksilver who was trapped in the collapsing Australian Sentinel base. Despite a ruling that outsiders were not allowed in Attilan (which had kept Johnny away previously) Crystal brought Pietro home with her and nursed him to health. That they fell in love off-panel is one of the greatest failures in comics’ narration and goes a long way to explaining why this couple has never enjoyed the popularity of, say, Cyclops and Jean Grey or the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.

So Crystal breaks Johnny’s heart and marries Quicksilver. The Inhumans get over their prejudices about outsiders enough to allow this to happen, and apart from a guest appearance by Ultron at the wedding everything goes OK for a while. Quicksilver stays in Attilan, putting his Avengers training to good use as leader of the defence militia, and inexplicably failing to call his old comrades in when the city is attacked by a variety of menaces from Shatterstar to Maelstrom to the Enclave. Eventually Crystal has a baby, who is names Luna. Luna is extraordinarily human.

Now things get more complicated. In an excellent Byrne Thing story we see Crystal resisting her family’s efforts to expose Luna to the Terrigen Mists. Quicksilver is all for it. He doesn’t want to have a homo sapiens daughter. This is the first major schism between the young lovers, even though all appears to be restored to status quo afterwards. The story ends when Lockjaw speaks for the first time, claiming to be an Inhuman who was terribly changed by the Mists. Although this revelation has since been retconned as a joke on Ben, the actual story does not support this. Lockjaw’s speech is the pivotal point of a very dramatic and serious storyline. Nobody was going to be pulling jokes. It was this sudden interference by Lockjaw which convinces Pietro not to mutate Luna.

The next major development is of course Crystal’s adultery with the rather shallow real estate salesman (Norm somebody?) over in the Vision & Scarlet Witch Limited Series. Crystal’s motivations for this are depicted as being an increasing schism between her and Pietro. Later retcons have attributed it (and Quicksilver’s turning to the darkside of the force for a while) to Maximus’ mental manipulations. Suffice to say that this was the trigger for Crystal and Pietro to split up (though I was never that disappointed by it since I didn’t like them getting together in the first place).

The Inhumans do not appear to have been very sympathetic to Crystal about her troubles. When she decides to rejoin the FF there is a lot of resistance from her family and she is very closely monitored around Johnny Storm. Clearly there is much of the old attraction still intact on both sides, but Crystal overcomes temptation and eventually gets recalled to Attilan for a family-ordained reunion with the apparently repentant Pietro. The estranged couple remain together in a rather uncomfortable no-man’s land until the Avengers Collection Obsession storyline which leads to Crystal joining Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (bad idea). Quicksilver joins X-Factor shortly afterwards (worse idea).

Two things happen during Crystal’s time with the Avengers. First she has to cope with a growing mutual attraction to Dane Whitman, the Black Knight (another bad idea). Secondly she has to deal with attempts from Pietro to reconcile (even worse idea). And being Crystal she lets both of these things go too far. The story never makes clear whether Crystal and Dane consummate their affection (although there is an implication that they certainly did something down in the Mansion’s gardens, watched by Sersi and possibly the fake Vision – now that’s a couple I could get into), but they are certainly more than friends. And it is this last complicated triangle, or quadrilateral, or whatever, that has branded Crystal a slut in the eyes of many Avengers readers. When Tuc, Crystal’s alternate-future son, appeared in The Crossing, it was unclear as to whether Pietro or Dane was his father (I’d prefer Johnny as the one since I’m still convinced he is Luna’s pa too).

So much is history, and a simplified version at that. But the Inhumans limited series by Jae Lee introduced a new concept which could force us all to re-evaluate little Crystal’s behaviour.

Lee’s Inhumans are more than just a race of mutants or some other super-powered variant species of humanity. The storyline in the current series implies that the Inhumans are effectively a designer organism, each gaining powers from the Terrigen mist which enable them to fulfil some social function within the society as a whole. In other words, each Inhuman is born to a place within Inhuman culture, just as an ant has a fixed role within its live. What that role is becomes clear at the time of Terrigen metamorphosis for an Inhuman. Whether it is the destiny of that person to be a food-generator, a guard, a drone, or a king, it is all regulated in some way by the collective need of the race which we now know to be truly Inhuman.

Yet even amongst the Inhumans this is understood only by Maximus the Mad, and perhaps Black Bolt.

This function is not just about power. An Inhumans’ special ability is only a reflection of the core of their nature. Hence the mutation of the mists only manifests the role which they have been genetically engineered to play from birth.

So what does this say about Crystal’s function in Inhuman society? Is it only the whimsy of a silly girl that led her to Johnny Storm and later to Pietro Maximoff and Dane Whitman? Or does Crystal have some sort of cultural imperative which makes her seek out the unknown and embrace it? Of all the Inhumans’ royal family Crystal is the only one who has willingly sought out adventure beyond Attilan.

There is something almost mystical about the way the Mists manifest skills within the Inhumans in anticipation of what they will need. Just at the time that contact with other cultures was going to be critical to the survival of the Inhumans, Crystal came along to seek out liaison with the Human Torch, and through him others who had power to achieve what the current Inhumans could not. Her instinct seemed to be to bond, physically, emotionally, totally, with some gifted male from outside her own culture. Denied access to Johnny Storm she was taken (by Lockjaw!) to Pietro Maximoff.

Lockjaw remains an enigma (although I hear that Inhumans series addresses him but I don’t know how). Although his sentience has been portrayed as a joke by Inhumans such as Karnak and Gorgon ever since Byrne left the FF, I don’t entirely trust the Inhuman royal family to always speak the truth to outsiders. Certainly a culture which has created and enslaved the Alpha Primitives would have few qualms in mutating one of its own and making them a dumb beast. But whether dumb beast or not, his pivotal role at two vital moments of Crystal’s life cannot be ignored. Perhaps Lockjaw’s function was to do whatever was necessary to bring about the conception and preservation of Luna?

As to the estate agent, I can only plead that Crystal’s instincts are clearly very strong.

Still, the Inhuman collective imperative does seem to require “fresh blood” for the future. There has been more interaction between Inhumans and the outside world in the few years since the FF first met Medusa than in all the centuries before that. And Crystal’s urge to join with a non-Inhuman man do not seem to have diminished. Even her very personality – nurturing, gentle, loving, and kind – seems to suit her for the role placed upon her.

So what do you think? Is there more to Crystal’s actions than meets the eye? Is there an explanation for how a loving and caring woman could break first Johnny’s then Pietro’s hearts? Is Crystal as much victim as perpetrator? Has she any way to avoid her genetically-impelled destiny?

The “victim/perpetrator” concept reminds one of the viewpoint on Lucrezia Borgia. Used as a lovely tool for political alliances, which were often destroyed by her family when they were no longer necessary (including her one true love, who was stabbed and later murdered on her own brother’s command). It sparks the imagination, but I would be concerned that any of the Inhumans (except Maximus) would consciously have such cold-hearted intentions. What are your thoughts on this?

There are a number of dark shadows at the edge of the Inhumans stories. Apart from the Alpha Primitives, and the later depicted genetic snobbery based upon the Terrigen Mist mutations, there is also the mystery of Lockjaw, the only mutated apparent animal we have ever seen in Attilan, and also the questions around Medusa’s child.

We have seen the Inhumans drag Crystal home on a number of occasions when her behaviour has been considered inappropriate by Inhuman society. Conversely, we have seen Quicksilver treated with contempt by them even as he has been struggling for their lives. We have seen the very strict regimen under which Inhuman culture is operated, by never-fully-depicted codes as complex and impenetrable as many of the older cultures of our own world.

All of this seems to suggest that the Inhumans are not, as they often appear to be, merely the Addams Family of the Marvel Universe, or another lost tribe, but something very different… Inhuman in fact. It may even be that the Inhuman organism is, on one level, the culture, not the individual. And if so, judging any of the Inhumans’ interactions by human standards will always leave us somewhat puzzled.

On the other hand, the Inhuman Royal family and some others have been shown as noble, compassionate, and selfless. It may be that like many cultures the Inhumans maintain a “public face” for outsiders and have a rich, complicated sub-strata which is reserved for insiders only. Or there may be those things that all Inhumans know, but never speak about (think about the Victorian culture of our own history, and the taboos which it had, such as homosexuality; things still went on, but were never acknowledged).

That said, one’s impression is that even the Inhumans themselves do not understand how deep their genetic imperatives go. Perhaps that is why Maximus, who seems to comprehend them best, is mad, and why Black Bolt, who is the wisdom of his people, can shatter worlds with his voice.

So what about Crystal’s place as a specialised breeder to stimulate the otherwise inbred Inhuman community?

First, the Inhumans have been around for a very long time, and isolated for nearly all of their history. We have never heard anything about inbreeding problems in their community before, presumably because the mutative effects of the Terrigen Mist go far beyond simply giving people fins and wings and so on, and negate the sort of problematic cross-breeding that humans would have suffered in that time. So we need a different reason for Crystal’s (hypothesised) imperative.

However, the Inhuman Terrigen transformation is more than just a genetic change. Like the Gamma radiation which has created several super-powered beings, the Terrigen Mists seem to unlock what is already inside a person. Hence manipulative Maximus becomes a mind-bender, fierce bullish Gorgon gains hooves and a powerful stamp, and responsible, brooding Black Bolt gains electron control at the cost of his voice (the only Inhuman with two different powers, which is interesting).

And the transformation allows the young Inhuman to take their place in society, setting their social status and life-role. So the transformation is more than genetic, making this a far more complex system than the different instinctive roles of an insect hive.

As mentioned above, even Crystal would have to be a damn sight sluttier to make a significant difference to the Inhuman gene pool. So there is clearly some other reason why she might need to conceive a child by an outsider, and who turns out to be entirely human.

There is evidence to argue that the Inhumans bring forth the individuals that their society will need, somehow unconsciously anticipating what is to come. If rebellious, heart-led Crystal had not struck up her romance with Johnny Storm, the entire Inhuman population might have been destroyed, or at least subjugated by Maximus and later by the Kree. If Crystal had not birthed Luna then the Avengers would not have survived the Crossing. And who knows what need the Inhumans might have for Luna in the days to come?

Or perhaps it was just time for the Inhumans to stop hiding. It is perhaps significant that within weeks of the Inhumans being discovered the world was visited for the first time by Galactus. Within a few years of their “discovery” the Inhumans would be involved in all kinds of world-shattering events from invasions to Infernos. Was this all somehow anticipated, and Crystal spawned to prepare for it?

My other point is about the origins of the Inhumans. Remember that they were an early, forgotten, genetic experiment by the Kree. This takes on a new relevance in the light of the Supreme Intelligence’s sacrifice of the entire Kree galaxy in order to promote the genetic advancement of his race.

We have never seen anything like an Inhumans experiment on another planet, yet somehow this unique accomplishment, which has significant military value and which had both a Sentinel and Shatterstar set to watch over it was overlooked for millennia. Only the Supreme Intelligence himself could bury data that well. And the Inhumans started interacting with the outside world just as the Skrulls began their major campaign on Earth, and shortly before the Kree/Skrull War (in which they also played a role).

Is there still Kree programming somewhere in the genetic code of the Inhumans? Is the Supreme Intelligence saving this experiment for something special, perhaps something to do with his plans to revitalise the Kree genetic inheritance? Has the Supreme Intelligence got a purpose for Luna?

These what-if games can get very deep, can’t they? Perhaps it’s safer to assume that Crystal is a fallible, all-too human girl who has made good judgements and bad in her time. Not the culmination of an ancient plot by the Supreme Intelligence to exploit the genetic potential of humankind and spread his power across the stars.  But the latter sounds like much more fun!!!

To the earlier point, and I have seen similar behaviour in many real women who definitely weren’t sluts, I am interested by the later idea that the Inhumans are not really individuals but parts of one organism, with each playing its assigned social function (this raises some really big questions about Maximus, though, and whether he is a slipped cog or a vital part of the machine. In that concept, Crystal is either totally betraying the hive-society by her actions or else is performing some vital function.

On the question of Inhuman morals, they seem to place a massive emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is very important. The hint we have sometimes had about Maximus’ forbidden passion, and possibly affair, with Medusa raises some very dark questions over the Inhuman Royal Family.

On the question of Inhuman morals, they seem to place a massive emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is very important. The hint we have sometimes had about Maximus’ forbidden passion, and possibly affair, with Medusa raises some very dark questions over the Inhuman Royal Family.

Maybe Crystal is a “selective Xeno-breeder.”

Bear with me, I might lose even myself here.

The sentence above, “This is presumably because they have a society based upon genetic lines, so parentage is important” sets off bells in me noggin’.

The Inhumans keep careful watch of their breeding. They are a small society made up of genetic time-bombs (fused by the Terrigen Mists), so they must be very careful of inbreeding, more so than other small societies.

The smaller the society the harder it would be to keep relatives (especially distant ones) from breeding. This is why many states have blood testing before marriage.

Crystal could perhaps be meant to breed outside of her species to introduce new genetic material to the Inhumans bloodline.

When dog breeders breed their dogs they look for the best possible mate they could find. They do research and check all documents to make sure inbreeding won’t occur. In breeding is bad.

Ok, so assuming Crystal is a “selective Xeno-breeder”, what’s the “selective” part mean?

Look who she chose to breed with on Earth. Her first choice was a Homo Sapien that had been changed by cosmic ray bombardment, he was a public figure, a hero, and roughly her age.

Her second choice: a Homo Superior that had been severely injured while committing a heroic deed (Pietro’s bloodline is actually worshipped by some Mutants on Marvel Earth).

Her third? Well, let’s just say this is what makes Crystal’s function also risky to the Inhumans. A “selective breeder” with misguided judgement.

Or maybe she just was trying to gain back Pietro’s attention by hooking up with Norm the real estate agent. Maybe she had found love. Pietro’s a cold dude though, and he’s not innocent in their relationship problems.

Her fourth. A Homo Sapien that had been a hero in two centuries, an Avenger, a scientist, and a master sword-fighter to boot.

Crystal is also an elemental, which also raises questions on her connection to earthly type things.

My point: Maybe Crystal is MEANT to breed with exceptional males that are not Inhuman to bring in new genes to the gene pool. This would be a very hard position for her, because the Inhumans are very serious about marriage, and her genetic role would be to seek mates.

Crystal did however accomplish her “mission” (if this were actual continuity), she successfully had a child with a Homo Superior Pietro. Luna is like a breath of fresh air(no pun intended) for the Inhumans and their scrutinised gene pool. The Royal Family gets the gold.

Maybe.

Also, close society have a high percentage of endogamy. That comes with a lot of disease and sickness to them. The percentage between genome mutations is higher than in other more open/ mixed cultures. When that happens, a society like such can even vanish, dying all their members. Then the cross with another population can health that sick population, the hybrid vigour like its name, can save them. Then, if correct, Crystal’s role in her society is vital. They have to mix with human or some close species just to survive (but then you need more than one Luna to accomplish that).

Something entirely different. To have a baby is an honour between Inhumans. Their reproduction is politically controlled (Like we saw in Vision & SW LS II). They can´t have children if their government (Royal family?) don’t allow it. When a couple have a baby it is consider a gift and their prestige elevates (suggesting everything is programmed).

And we have never yet seen how they “know” that it is right to reproduce.

One interesting thought: we have some evidence that Inhumans are longer lived than homo sapiens. We also have evidence that they have very long courtships (Medusa and Black Bolt, for example). Is it because Inhumans have to be genetically and socially “right” for each other before they are allowed to breed?

About Crystal betraying the society, well Inhumans don’t like her behaviour but then perhaps they don´t even know Crystal part is crucial for them.

…Mr Fantastic’s super-human intelligence?

earthevo1

Today’s post comes from fnord12 who is so addicted to comics, he has taken on the ambitious project of trying to physically assemble every Marvel comic and then write reviews/ breakdowns of them in chronological order.  What I especially like is how he scathingly points out all the dated and nonsensical occurrences, such as the Human Torch’s room being entirely composed of asbestos, the Hulk wearing a mask of his own head and the countless sexist remarks about women.

It seems nowadays Reed Richards is so smart that a lot of the traditional threats the Fantastic Four have faced don’t pose any sort of a real challenge.  Dr. Doom is the only human villain presented as Reed’s intellectual equal, so the rest of the human villains seem outclassed by Reed Richards in terms of intelligence.

For example there was a story during Civil War where Reed Richards showed the Mad Thinker his work on predicting events and the Thinker commented that his work was vastly inferior to Reed’s in this field.  How is Mad Thinker supposed to be a threat if Reed is better at the field that the Mad Thinker is supposed to be an expert in?  How is the Wizard supposed to be an intellectual threat to Reed, if Reed is the world’s smartest man? It seems like Reed can just whip up plot devices to solve almost every problem, so it’s hard to have dramatic story lines where FF are in trouble if Reed can just come up with plot devices so easily.

fnord12 has kindly stepped in to attempt to present a FIX for this problem.

Reed Richards is too damn smart.

Sure, he was always an incredibly intelligent guy.  But he’s evolved along the way from being an expert in his field and Marvel’s top scientist to the Smartest Man in the World, by a factor of 100.  In the old days, Reed would sometimes even bring in experts to help him (see Dr. Santini in Fantastic Four #68-71, for example).  Nowadays, even Henry Pym or Tony Stark are redundant when Reed is around.  It makes him, frankly, dull.  A fun way to write Mr. Fantastic would be sort of like a less satirical version of Dr. Jonas Venture, Sr.:  full of 1960s male swagger, exploring the universe and fighting bad guys with super-science, but not above rolling up his sleeves and using his (rubbery) fists.  But his intelligence is too vast, too godlike, for that sort of story to work anymore.  I think Jonathan Hickman is actually reaching for this on his run (and Mark Waid tried, too), but it doesn’t work, because Reed’s super-genius demands that the stakes be too high, the plotline too metaphysical, for things to get down, dirty, and fun.

A while back, on his now defunct blog, Tom Brevoort described a similar problem regarding Spider-Man’s strength.    In Amazing Spider-Man #33, Spidey makes a special effort in extreme circumstances to lift over a ton of heavy machinery.  So the Marvel Handbook later puts Spider-Man’s max strength at one ton and the next thing you know, Spidey is tossing Volkswagens at Tri-Sentinels.  Same thing for Wolverine’s healing factor, etc.

Basically, we have a cycle of threat escalations and power boosts, and with it comes diminishing returns.  The entire Marvel Universe needs some de-powering.  For characters with actual super-powers, we can say that maybe the Fourth Celestial Host left a device buried in the Andes that has been slowly causing all mutants and x-factored humans to absorb more cosmic radiation, leading to a gradual power boost, and one day Dr. Doom discovers it and, since he’s a self-made man and doing so can only increase his advantage over the FF, destroys it.

But Reed’s intelligence isn’t technically a super-power (although it really is) so we need a different method to dumb him down.  We could just have the Thing accidentally drop some equipment on his head, but it’ll be more fun if we mine some continuity for a solution.

In Fantastic Four #271, Mr. Fantastic reveals that he’s missing chunks of his memory, the result of a Negative Zone alien mucking with his head in Fantastic Four #254-256.  The revelation causes him to take the FF back to the house where he grew up, hoping to trigger lost memories.  Instead he finds a time machine that leads him to discover that his father is the ruler of a post-apocalyptic, alternate dimension (!) but the memory loss problem was never actually resolved, at least on panel.

So let’s say that after that trip failed to help with his memory, Reed began experimenting with brain-enhancements; the super-science equivalent of gingko biloba.  In the process, without realizing it, he opened up the doorway for a semi-benevolent cosmic force to enter his brain; sort of a Phoenix Force or Captain Universe for smart people.  Let’s call it Logos.  And slowly, over time, it’s been increasing Reed’s intelligence, to the point where during Civil War he was able to write that equation that predicts the future.  Then there’s that story where he goes back in time with Eternity to solve the math equation that created the universe (Fantastic Four #527-532, the ultimate example of Reed being just way too smart).

Let’s say that event was Logos’ purpose, and with that accomplished, it is now out of control.  Reed begins to evolve, visually becoming something that looks both like the final stage of Mutant Alpha from Defenders #15-16 and Reed’s friend from Fantastic Four #215-216 (just because I like the idea of tying those two guys together, establishing that as what hyper-evolved humans look like).  Reed/Logos begins a scheme to stamp out all Unreason in the word, and the rest of the FF, along with maybe the High Evolutionary, try to stop him, but in the end it’s when Reed sees Sue and Franklin that he realizes he doesn’t want to leave his humanity behind, and he expels Logos into the universe.  For the final part of my arc, we’ll have a downtime issue with Reed coming to grips with the fact that he’s still really smart, but nowhere near what he used to be.  Looking at some of his notes and having his eyes glaze over.  Staring at all of the crazy machinery he’s built recently and realizing it’s beyond human scientific understanding, and he can’t even operate it any more.  But still acknowledging that he’s smart enough to build a rocket ship, a portal to the Negative Zone, etc.  Then the Thing comes in says, “You’ll always be ‘big brain’ to me, buddy.”

Next issue: Rumors of an underground Deviant stronghold in a remote section of Paraguay reach the Baxter Building.  Can the Fantastic Family brave wild jungles, raging rivers, and giant mutated insects to get there before the Wingless Wizard and his Frightful Four reach it and uncovers its secrets???

…Shatterstar’s origin?

Spiral Path

Readers will recall in Uncanny X-Men #209 Phoenix is abducted by Spiral.

We never found out what occurred to her between this story and her appearance in Excalibur Special Edition #1.

More recently (i.e. 2005) Jim Valentino revealed that his aborted plans for the Guardians of the Galaxy included establishing Jonathan Raven, otherwise known as KILLRAVEN, was the son of Franklin Richards.

Now we know from the fundamental Days of Future Past storylines that Franklin was the lover of Rachel Grey.

While we know that in one variant of this timeline Franklin and Rachel would go on to conceive the nigh-unstoppable villain Jonathan Richards, otherwise known as HYPERSTORM, it would seem that Valentino intended Killraven to be conceived from another variant of this particular timeline.

It seems totally acceptable that both Hyperstorm and Killraven were alternate versions of the same character, Jonathan Richards, given their identical heights and similar hair colour.

So what does all this have to do with the subject of this particular fanfix?

Well, while there has been much speculation over the years that Shatterstar has DNA that is identical to that of Longshot who was artificially created on Mojoworld – making him either his time-displaced son via Spiral/ Rita Wayward or Dazzler – this appears to be an exaggeration, since Shatterstar does not look physically identical to his supposed father, nor do they possess similar superhuman abilities.

And none of us believe the mangled mess that he was really the transplanted consciousness of coma victim, Benjamin Russell, in the body of a Mojoverse contestant.

However, I think most of what has come before can be resolved; but firstly by way of Jim Valentino’s plans to establish Killraven as Jonathan Richards.

While Valentino never gave a thought to whom Killraven’s mother would be, given the Days of Future Past iteration of Franklin Richards it is safe to assume that she would be Rachel Grey.

Secondly, there is the fact that both were trained as gladiators to fight for the amusement of their respective masters, Killraven for his Martian overlords and Shatterstar for Mojoworld; with both going on to become freedom fighters against their respective despotic regimes.

Oh, and of course, like Hyperstorm, the similarities in their physical appearance!

However, while there might appear to be a major hurdle to this theory what with Shatterstar having DNA that is identical to that of Longshot, I don’t see that as a major problem with Spiral being involved and having the Body Shoppe at her disposal.

Given the extant of Spiral’s genetic tampering upon Psylocke (if we stick with Claremont’s original intention that she transformed Betsy into a Chinese/ Anglo-hybrid) it is easy to adduce that the mistress of the Wildways had tampered with Shatterstar’s genetic makeup to cover up his true parentage; particularly if she had stolen him from the mother.

So to fix Shatterstar’s mangled mess of a parentage, in this instance I’d reveal that Rachel returned to our timeline carrying the son of Franklin Richards.

Knowing this, Spiral lured Rachel to her “Body Shoppe”, using her magical powers to induce the pregnancy and leave no sign that she’d been “with child” in the first place.

To cover her tracks, Spiral tampers with Jonathan’s DNA to make it appear as though the child was an artificial humanoid who had originated in Mojoworld.

The purpose behind her actions?

Given the failure of Longshot’s rebellion, and her undoubtedly discovering Rachel’s arrival to our time by way of the Phoenix force, she considered an offspring of the two most powerful mutants would possess the capacity to overthrow Mojo and thus free the planet from his regime, while also exacting her revenge upon him for his enslavement of her.

But what about Benjamin Russell looking exactly like Shatterstar, you ask?

The easy explanation is that she cloned the baby with the tech in her “Body Shoppe”, transplanting this clone on Earth as a “back-up” in the event Mojo uncovered her true plan and had him killed before he reached his true potential (in much the same way Stryfe was cloned from Cable).

Postscript: Followers of this blog will know I have a much cooler theory for Killraven’s parentage but for the purposes of this fix I’ve taken a slightly different tack!

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