While the mutant Callisto, created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #169 as leader of the Morlocks, a large group of mutants that had fled from human persecution into the tunnels beneath New York City where they had formed their own community, her history prior to her founding of the Morlocks remained shrouded in mystery for the ensuing hundred issues.
However, while this appears to be the case on the surface, a plot regarded as one of the most disturbing – and obscure – of Claremont’s entire run on the title, appears to provide some valuable clues upon a second viewing.
Consider that the scenes in Uncanny X-Men #259 showing Callisto transformed into a beautiful supermodel [by Masque]…
…were actually intended by Chris Claremont to hint at the founder of the Morlocks’ original appearance.
This would finally explain the scene in Uncanny X-Men #191, when new mutant, Dani Moonstar, shows Callisto her greatest fear by projecting an image of the attractive woman she once was…
…and the cryptic scene in #260 with the gang of thugs pursuing her down a dark alley…
…was hinting at the event which brought about her mutant abilities.
I’d therefore suggest that when still a supermodel, prior to her mutant powers manifesting, the young woman that became Callisto was pursued by a gang of thugs on the streets at night. She tries to struggle against their attack but, while she had learned a number of self-defence moves, she was just not built for physical combat.
However, given Claremont’s penchant for revealing mutants’ powers primarily manifesting in life-threatening situations (e.g. Sam Guthrie), I’d further suggest the assault caused her body to transform into that of a hardened warrior…
…which enabled her to fight off her attackers… but at the price of losing her looks, and modelling career in the process.
This would appear to explain why Claremont named her Callisto. That is, Callisto, meaning “most beautiful”, was the lovely nymph in Greek mythology that was raped by Zeus and subsequently transformed into a bestial form.
However, the myth goes a step further, and Callisto becomes pregnant as a result of the sexual assault.
So did Claremont intend to reveal that, in addition to manifesting her mutant abilities, Callisto became pregnant as a result of the attack? If so, where is that child now?
I have some ideas…
Given the bestial form Callisto was transformed into in the myth was a bear, does this provide some clue as to the identity of her child?
It is worth noting that the original version of the name Cheney, Cheynne, means “little Cree” (French) à “little Cris” (Canadian French) à “little Bear” (Greek). A long way to go about it, but it is there:)
We know Callisto spoke with a British argot (e.g. Uncanny X-Men #211 when she calls the dying Morlock, Annalee, a “dear old duffer”).
We also know Lila Cheney similarly used British slang.
So given Cheney’s name means “Little Bear”, it would seem she was intended by Claremont to be the child resulting from Callisto’s assault.
I kind of like the idea that Callisto is Lila Cheney’s mother. It ties two Claremont characters without origins together. And they never met during his run.
The only further detail Claremont provided for Lila Cheney’s origins during his run was that someone on Earth had sold her…
…to an alien who had forced her to participate in intergalactic gladiator tournaments!
The most logical villain from Claremont’s run to have orchestrated the abduction of Lila as a baby would seem to be Mister Sinister, what with his modus operandi of having mutant children kidnapped (Nanny not having been created at this point).
As to the alien, with Lila’s powers working on the basis that she must have previously been to a particular location in order to teleport there later, and given that we find her teleporting across the Imperium in Uncanny X-Men #269…
…and Uncanny X-Men #274-277…
…I’d propose Shi’ar “Big Bad,” the Emperor D’Ken!
As to why Mister Sinister would sell Lila to D’Ken, I’d suggest he did so in order to gain Shi’ar technology, specifically an incubation-accelerator… similar to the one Davan Shakari/ Eric the Red had used to age Magneto in X-Men #104…
…which he could use to accelerate his clones to adulthood, like he had with Madelyne Pryor.
And don’t panic, I’m not avoiding addressing the perpetrators of Callisto’s original assault which led to the manifestation of her mutant abilities (and Lila;). So let us return to the first hint of such an event, Uncanny X-Men #260. Most fans will agree with me here that there is something extremely disturbing about the scene in this issue when it becomes clear that the group of attackers are wearing X-Men masks.
When viewed on the surface, nothing about the sequence makes any sense. With the previous issue launching this particular storyline with Masque torturing Callisto, one could argue it was him who sent the attackers. However, if he did, why did they need to wear masks when Masque could have easily changed their faces with his powers? Also, Masque certainly couldn’t have known what Psylocke’s new helmeted mask looked like since Betsy had only been wearing her armoured costume since the X-Men had become invisible to electronic scanners and he’d not encountered them since before this time.
It’s worth noting here that Masque’s behaviour in this story arc is so much more psychologically sophisticated in its cruelty than anything we’ve previously seen from him – and his use of limousines and organising for Callisto to appear on billboards – such a high-class, highly-financed operation would be out of the league of an outcast who lives in the sewers. Such a scheme is more in keeping with the modus operandi of a villain like Farouk who was previously shown to run various legitimate nightclubs, etc. (e.g. the Fat Karma storyline).
As for the attackers wearing masks, while it could be argued this was Peter Nicholas’ subconscious trying to remind him of his identity as the X-Man, Colossus, the “vision” is also noted by Phillip Moreau.
I’d therefore alternatively suggest Peter seeing X-Men masks on the faces of Callisto’s attackers was not his subconscious but instead the mutant Aborigine, Gateway, contacting him via the Dreamtime. The hallucinatory effect of the scene echoes back to Psylocke’s experience in Uncanny X-Men #250, and Madelyne Pryor’s in the lead-up to Inferno. Recall at this point Gateway was imprisoned by the Shadow King (cf. Uncanny X-Men #250 and 253) in his efforts to control the Dreamtime.
Gateway’s “Dreamtime” contact to Peter was dual-purposed, firstly as suggested above his effort to speed up the recovery from his amnesia after passing through the Siege Perilous (so he could be restored as Colossus in preparation for the coming battle with the Shadow King), but also revealing subtle clues from the nightmares of characters’ past, in this instance Callisto’s. That is, what with Gateway being cursed to the service of the Reavers…
…who were revealed as the Shadow King’s pawns in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001…
…was Claremont using the character as a plot device to subtly reveal their involvement in the past events of his characters?
What’s interesting about the scene with Callisto’s attackers in Uncanny X-Men #260 is that they’re wearing masks of the “Outback Team” of X-Men, Colossus, Havok, Wolverine, Storm, Psylocke, etc.
At this time there were only two groups of X-Men villains who were aware of their survival from Dallas, the Reavers and Marauders.
With my having established Gateway’s “Dreamtime” contact, it would seem to make sense his influence was revealing villains mutual to both himself and the X-Men (sadly, Peter is still too Siege-lagged to interpret Gateway’s “vision”, and goes on to fall under the thrall of the Shadow King).
So when the attack on Callisto in Uncanny X-Men #260 is viewed from my above outlined perspective, things start falling into place, don’t they!
Now before I dive in, I’d suggest a much earlier scene written by Claremont in Callisto’s history provides us with further clues.
Recall in Callisto’s first appearance – Uncanny X-Men #169 – she has Angel kidnapped, stripped of his clothing and his primary feathers cut away in an effort to cripple him.
While this scene is explained as her wanting Warren as a “trophy husband”, there always seemed to be more behind her actions than she claimed. So what if Callisto actually came to knowledge that the gang of her original attackers worked for a rich, blonde male member of the Hellfire Club who had gone on to become member of some super outlaw team?
Now recall in Uncanny X-Men #132 had Angel reveal that he was a member of the Hellfire Club, having inherited the membership from his parents.
So did Callisto learn of Warren’s Hellfire Club membership and jump to the wrong conclusion, ordering his kidnapping due to a case of mistaken identity? And the rich, blonde she should really have kidnapped was CEO of Pierce-Consolidated Mining and White King of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle!
So let’s explore this a little further. We know Pierce had a mad-on for mutants…
…most likely because he ended up an amputee through a less than positive “interaction” with one! While this was somewhat revealed in Cable #49 by James Robinson…
…the storyline and characters revealed as responsible were obviously not those intended by Claremont.
So what circumstances did Claremont intend to have caused Donald Pierce’s disablement, and his subsequent hatred of mutants?
Before I begin addressing this apparent abandoned plot, let me first turn my investigation to an interesting statement made by the Pierce from around our period in discussion, Uncanny X-Men #251, where he claims to have created the original Reavers; and that Pretty Boy, Skullbuster and Bonebreaker were the last of this original group.
It is worth noting that the original Reavers did not just consist of the abovementioned three. That is, Uncanny X-Men #229 earlier shows them as part of a much larger group of super-powered cyborgs.
That same issue Claremont has Longshot express outrage toward the group about giving up their “birthright flesh” and replacing it with machinery, which I’d suggest was his way of indicating that the entire commando-style team of thieves started out as human.
Given their cybernetic enhancements enabled them to become this super-commando team, I’d further suggest that when still purely human they were just a team of thieves.
So what were the circumstances of their own disablement that made them candidates for Pierce’s cybernetic enhancements? I’m assuming by now you’ve deduced where I’m going with this.
That is, was Pierce and this gang of thieves that went on to become his original Reavers the same group of thugs hinted by Gateway to have been responsible for the attack on the supermodel that became the mutant Callisto?
I would suggest yes, and that the fractures, amputations and internal injuries, that required them to subject themselves to cybernetic enhancement, were sustained as a result of the supermodel’s mutant abilities manifesting during their sexual assault of her.
But, you ask, were members of the Reavers’ really capable of rape?
I’d answer that question by directing you to their very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #229. Pretty Boy especially had a penchant for making female victims more “pliable” to his suggestions, including the captured Jessan Hoan (his fibre-optic filaments burrowing into her brain and altering her sense of morality such that she went on to become Tyger Tiger, the new crime lord of Madripoor)…
This would seem to suggest that Pretty Boy’s predatory behaviour towards females existed long before Pierce surgically provided him with the fibre-optic filaments that enabled him to burrow into a victim’s brain and alter their sense of morality, and that Donald in fact outfitted him with this enhancement as it played to his previous strengths.
In addition, Donald Pierce exhibited similarly creepy behaviour towards Lady Deathstrike, who acknowledged his control over her.
It’s worth noting that his first name, Donald, means “ruler of the world” and his surname Pierce is derived from the Greek Petros, the ammonite shila form by which Zeus was worshipped.
So there you have it, Donald Pierce and his gang of thieves, stumbling across the supermodel that went on to become Callisto while they were taking down one of their scores, decided to “sate their appetites” when her powers kicked in and she cut through them like a knife through butter, becoming the mutant responsible for the original Reavers!
Now while this resolves the circumstances of Callisto’s assault and subsequent transformation, Lila Cheney’s conception and eventual sale to D’Ken (and later escape from her intergalactic enslavement*), if this was Claremont’s plan, I’ve not yet addressed why Callisto didn’t attempt to track down her daughter after the abduction. Well, while her mutant powers manifested during her sexual assault and she ended up permanently disabling her attackers, they’d be no match against the Marauders when those assassins came to abduct baby Lila from her for their employer, Mister Sinister. While she’d have been able to put up a fight, recall during Claremont’s run these were the deadliest group of mutants the X-Men had ever faced and Callisto would have been alone against them. While she survived the encounter, there’s no way she wouldn’t have walked away unscathed, so I’d suggest that it was this battle that was responsible for her missing right eye and the scars on her cheeks, most likely meted out by Sabretooth.
I’d even go a further step to suggest that, as it is unlikely for a sole fighter to survive an encounter with the Marauders, Callisto, despite sustaining her injuries, managed to flee from them into the sewers beneath Manhattan and kept running until she stumbled across one of the series of abandoned military tunnels constructed during the Cold War; the Marauders unable to track her and finish their job due to the Alley blocking psionic scanning.
Having now experienced two near-death attacks upon her person, by humans AND mutants, I’d posit that Callisto lost any sense of safety and so, like Harvey Elder, upon finding the security of the Alley, decided to create a makeshift home there. And after encountering Caliban, Sunder, Masque and Plague who similarly fled there to avoid human persecution, with their help went on to form the community of mutant outcasts called the Morlocks.
So could this be the reason for the later Morlock Massacre? That is, Callisto is perhaps the first one (i.e. mutant) that got away from an assassination ordered by Mister Sinister. So when he eventually heard rumours of her established community of mutant outcasts, he ordered it wiped out from existence.
Post-script: As to the circumstances of Lila Cheney’s eventual escape from her enslavement as a human gladiator in the Shi’ar Imperium, I’d suggest Claremont also provides the answer to that plot thread in Uncanny X-Men #276, in particular the scene where upon her hesitation to teleport away after Deathbird commands her to, thereby abandoning Gambit and Jubilee to defend themselves against Gladiator and War-Skrull Xavier (despite the two X-Men having freed them from imprisonment), the Majestrix guilts her into action by reminding Lila of her pledge of loyalty and service to her.
While leaving behind these two new members of the X-Men might be able to be overlooked once, given she has never met them before, Lila bails out on team members she has previously worked alongside again when they are under attack by Warskrull agents on a further occasion in this issue. Twice when they are in desperate need of assistance seems entirely out of character for the Lila we have previously known. That is, unless Deathbird was the one who helped her escape from her original intergalactic enslavement! And if D’Ken as I posit was the one who placed Lila into gladiatorial enslavement in the first place, releasing a victim of the brother who unseated her from the Shi’ar throne and procuring them as an ally would seem entirely ‘in character’ for the Deathbird we know, and love. In fact Deathbird’s behaviour as written by Claremont during the entire War-Skrull storyline (officially titled “Crossroads”) makes me believe that D’Ken was behind the murder of his mother and unnamed sister, and he orchestrated events so that Deathbird, next in line to the Shi’ar throne, would take the blame and he could take her place as Emperor. After all, it is rather interesting that she ends up exiled to the planet her brother had a Shi’ar agent running agendas for him! But that, I’m afraid, will have to be a FIX for another time;)
Post-postscript: As for Masque’s transformation of Callisto into her former supermodel self, I’d suggest he didn’t just do this so he could take leadership of the Morlocks from her, but also at the Shadow King’s behest so that Peter would fall in love with her thus enabling them to manipulate him to provide them with access codes to the X-Mansion’s underground basement. Despite Masque’s defeat in Uncanny X-Men #263…
…and what would appear to be a happy ending for Peter and Callisto in Uncanny X-Men #264…
…when next we see him it becomes clear that Masque’s scheme has worked despite Gateway’s efforts, and Colossus has indeed fallen under the Shadow King’s thrall:(
Filed under: Claremont's X-Men | Tagged: Alley, Arclight, Bob Macleod, Bonebreaker, Cable #49, Callisto, Candy Southern, Chris Claremont, Colossus, D'Ken, Dani Moonstar, Dazzler, Deathbird, Dreamtime, Dyson Sphere, Eric the Red, Forge, Gateway, Genosha, Gladiators, Hellfire Club, Jenny Ransome, Jessan Hoan, Lady Deathstrike, Lila Cheney, Madelyne Pryor, Madripoor, Magneto, Marauders, Marc Silvestri, Masque, Mister Sinister, Morlock Massacre, Morlock tunnels, Morlocks, Muir Island, New Mutants, New Mutants #29, New Mutants Annual #1, Paul Smith, Peter Nicholas, Phillip Moreau, Piotr Rasputin, Polaris, Pretty Boy, Psylocke, Reavers, Rick Leonardi, Sabretooth, Sage, Scalphunter, Shadow King, Shadow King saga, Shi'ar, Skullbuster, Tyger Tiger, uncanny x men, Uncanny X-Men #104, Uncanny X-Men #132, Uncanny X-Men #134, Uncanny X-Men #169, Uncanny X-Men #211, Uncanny X-Men #229, Uncanny X-Men #248, Uncanny X-Men #251, Uncanny X-Men #252, Uncanny X-Men #253, Uncanny X-Men #259, Uncanny X-Men #260, Uncanny X-Men #263, Uncanny X-Men #264, Uncanny X-Men #269, Uncanny X-Men #273, Uncanny X-Men #274, Uncanny X-Men #275, Uncanny X-Men #276, Uncanny X-Men #277, Uncanny X-Men #278, Uncanny X-Men #279, Warren Worthington, X-Men outback base, X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001, Yuriko | 15 Comments »