…Nightcrawler’s parentage?

During the early part of his X-Men run with John Byrne, Chris Claremont got the idea that the ruler of the dimension of dreams, Nightmare, who had pointy ears just like Nightcrawler’s, should be revealed as his father (further reasoning that the dimension through which Kurt travelled while teleporting was the same as the dream dimension).

However, as Nightmare was a long-time Doctor Strange villain, Roger Stern, who was writing the eponymous title at the time, did not like the idea, recalling in Back Issue #29:

“Too many people in the Marvel Universe are secretly related to one another, and it’s much more interesting when mutants have normal parents.”

Stern subsequently became editor of X-Men and was able to ensure that this didn’t happen for long enough that Chris was forced to change his mind (yet hypocritically allowed long-time friend John Byrne reveal Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver as the children of Magneto).

In Uncanny X-Men #142 (1981), Nightcrawler met the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, who had a physical resemblance to him.  In the issue she told him that his adoptive mother Margali Szardos could answer his question about who she was.

But Nightcrawler never asked Margali.

In Uncanny X-Men #204 (1986), Nightcrawler rescued a new character, Judith Rassendyll, from the hitman Arcade. Afterwards, Judith learned that she was the last of the Elfburgs and heir to the throne of the European country Ruritania.

Uncanny X-Men #204 had been advertised in Marvel Age #36:

“It’s the start of an epic adventure that will take Nightcrawler from the wilds of Central Park to the back woods of Europe… Nightcrawler deals with his fears about the Beyonder, a love-life that’s falling apart, and the truth about himself and his origin.”

In Comics Focus #1, Claremont told:

“We started to do his origin and the story died on us.  We set up, we started it rolling, tried to hammer it into something of value, and it died.  This happens.  Once in a while you’ll run into a story that’s a major dud, it just will not fly, no matter how much air you pipe into the wings.  So, we rewrote the ending of the story and instead did one with Rachel Summers, Wolverine and the Hellfire Club, which led up to the Mutant Massacre, which turned out to be a much more powerful and effective storyline.”

Unfortuntely, Nightcrawler’s origin story was cut short in Uncanny X-Men #206 (1986), with Kurt not accompanying Judith Rassendyll to Ruritania.  It was never revealed who had hired Arcade to kill Judith, but it was probably someone who didn’t want her to ascend to the throne of Ruritania.

Judith reappeared in the Excalibur Special Edition #2: Mojo Mayhem (1989) where she was now Princess of Ruritania and about to enter into an arranged marriage. Despite romantic attraction between Kurt and Judith, she has never appeared again.

When Nightcrawler joined Excalibur in 1988, Claremont announced in Amazing Heroes #134:

“One of the storylines we will seriously try to play with is Nightcrawler’s origin. We would’ve done that in X-Men, but the story was such a dud, I decided not to do it. Hopefully now we’ll try again and do it right. Everyone has been wondering why Nightcrawler and Mystique look alike.”

However, his origin didn’t happen in the pages of Excalibur either, but a 64 pages Excalibur hardcover graphic novel was announced in Marvel Age Preview #1 to ship in December 1990:

“Chris Claremont and Alan Davis continue their Excalibur collaboration with the biography of Kurt Wagner – Nightcrawler, from his birth to his rescue at the hands of Charles Xavier. We will finally learn more of the mysterious connection between Nightcrawler and Mystique!”

However, the graphic novel never appeared either, and Nightcrawler’s origin ended up being written by Scott Lobdell in X-Men Unlimited #4, 1994, instead. Lobdell did not follow Claremont’s ideas, but claimed in Seriejournalen.dk:

“It was always Chris’ plan that Mystique and Irene Adler (Destiny) were lovers, and that Mystique at one point had transformed into a man and impregnated Destiny and she gave birth to Nightcrawler. So Mystique and Destiny were actually Nightcrawler’s father and mother. The likelihood of either A, Mystique growing genitals with sperm that had a DNA-code, or B, Mystique being a guy who was perpetually in the body of a woman, I thought was pretty slim.”

Instead, Lobdell had Mystique be Nightcrawler’s mother with Destiny playing no part in the equation.

However, in his online Cordially Chris forum (24 June, 2003), Claremont himself stated:

“Regarding Mystique, I always considered her default form to be blue-skinned and female.”

So even as recent as 2003, it seems despite subsequent claims from a number of sources, Claremont can’t have really intended Mystique to be Nightcrawler’s father.

But I’m not necessarily suggesting Mystique was Nightcrawler’s mother, either.

You see, in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (1980), Margali Szardos summons the Eye of Agamotto off Dr. Strange and uses it to reveal:

“…the infant Kurt Wagner — barely an hour old — found beside his dying mother, taken in by the Gypsy Witch-Queen Margali Szardos, and raised as one of her own.”

When using the Eye of Agamotto at this moment, Kurt is bathed in a powerful mystical light that allowed the past events of how she found him by the roadside as a baby.

In Uncanny X-Men #142 (Feb 81), in the ensuing fight with Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants when the X-Men stop their assassination attempt on Senator Robert Kelly, Nightcrawler notes that her “true form – meingott, we are so alike!” and upon asking her “Who are you?!” she replies “Ask… your mother, Margali Szardos. Who would better know than — she?”.

Then, in Uncanny X-Men #170 (Jun 83), captions written by Chris for the dream sequence where Mystique is getting hunted by Lady Jean Grey and Sir Jason Wyngarde, note it to be occurring in “1783, the place England, their quarry a woman who will not be born for another 170 years”, indicating she was born in 1953 (exactly 30 years before the story’s setting).

So despite later suggestions that Chris decided Kurt’s mother as Destiny, and his father was Mystique, there is no way Raven could have been Kurt’s parent without time-travel being involved.

But wait, there’s more.

In Uncanny X-Men #177 (Jan 84) Kurt is beginning to question Margali’s account of him as a foundling as a result of leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Mystique’s response to him in Uncanny X-Men #142 when he asked if there was a connection between them that he “ask your mother, ask Margali Szardos.”  When he subsequently asks his girlfriend “Who am I…? Where do I come from?! What is my real family?” Amanda Sefton responds “I know what Mom told me — she found you, new-born and barely alive, in a roadside shelter in the Black Forest. A man — your father, I guess — lay outside…”

It is not unlikely that this contradiction is intentional, given Kurt’s questioning of Margali’s account to Amanda, in their conversation in #177, to such an extent as “Did she even try to find my family?”

So how can Margali’s story, revealed by the Eye of Agamotto, be reconciled with what Mystique said in Uncanny X-Men#142?

In the earlier half of Uncanny X-Men #177, when Mystique kills six of the seven X-Men robot simulacrums which she hired from Arcade to help her prepare for battle with the real X-Men when she planned to return Rogue to her and Irene, recall she hesitates when it comes to the robot Nightcrawler.

While this could be used as further evidence to suggest she was always intended as Kurt’s biological mother, when Destiny says “You could not harm a facsimile Nightcrawler — how will you fare against the man himself? If he’s killed…” Mystique responds “Be silent, woman! Mention him again… at your peril. The X-Men have my child and if I have to slaughter them all to rescue her, then I shall!”

And just prior to this, after her hesitation with the Nightcrawler robot, Mystique discusses with Arcade about how to conduct further training sessions (with always one android set to kill) meaning that she wants to be ready to kill Kurt if that was “necessary” to “rescue” Rogue.

It doesn’t make sense that she would believe it was necessary for her to kill her biological son in order to “rescue” her foster daughter?!

Applying logic to Mystique’s statement would lead to the conclusion that almost plenty of possible relationships were more likely than Kurt being her biological son, especially if you factor in that Mystique apparently was:

  • only 30 years old per Uncanny X-Men #170 (and at that point there was no reason to assume that time-travel was somehow involved), and
  • that she said to Kurt in Uncanny X-Men #142 when he asked “Who are you?”, “Ask your mother, Margali Szardos. Who would know better than she?”

This showed she knew an awful lot about Kurt Wagner before then, even about his pre-X-Men days, for Kurt had been out of touch with Margali since before his first appearance in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), and both us readers and the X-Men only learned about her in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (1980; it came out one month before Uncanny X-Men #142).

This further indicates that not only did Mystique know about Margali, but Margali also knew about Mystique, by all evidence before Mystique came to wider attention (her debut was in 1978 in Ms. Marvel #18).

This would make it very likely that the stories Margali told Kurt and Amanda about finding baby Nightcrawler next to his dead mother or father may not have been true or have left out crucial details.

All of which brings up the following question:

If Kurt is Mystique’s son and she was aware that Margali Szardos had him, why didn’t she try to retrieve him?

Whereas if she was Kurt’s sister, possibly only a few years older than him, one could say that she was too young to do anything about Margali taking him away from her.

Of course there are other possible scenarios.

Recall that upon Margali summoning the Eye of Agamotto from Dr. Strange in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 and using it, at this moment Kurt was bathed in a powerful mystical light, the same light that allowed Dr. Strange to see past events!

So it’s unlikely the images and memories it unfolded (particularly of Kurt being found beside his dead father) were faked by Margali as is later claimed since the mystical light the Eye of Agamotto emitted previously allowed Dr. Strange to see through all illusions.

Its light can dissolve illusions: “Nothing evil can bask for long in its glow!” Strange Tales #116…

…and it can play back recent past events in an area (because “light waves never completely disappear”), Strange Tales #120

And when Amanda recalled her mother telling her she found him beside the body of his dead mother, perhaps she was just recalling the incorrect parent as Margali had told her when she was much younger.

So what if Kurt was the biological son of Margali and Mystique’s late beloved elder brother (let’s call him Mr. Szardos) – quite possibly a shape-shifter like herself – and Jimaine(Amanda) was an adoptive child*?

Mr. Szardos could have met his (probably violent) end around the time of Kurt’s birth, and that would have inspired the cover story of Margali finding the child by the roadside (maybe she wanted to hide the fact that she had given birth to a child that looked so much like a demon and thus pretended that the foundling Amanda was her biological child and Kurt the foundling).

So Margali as Kurt’s actual mother would have the better right to raise him than his aunt Mystique, but she can’t help thinking of her late brother whom she misses so much whenever she sees Kurt, and she sheds a silent tear…

So in conclusion there is no need or reason to assume that Chris made a mistake in Uncanny X-Men #170 (which he wrote with the mysterious connection between Kurt and Mystique already in place).  The likelihood of Kurt being Raven’s son was extremely remote as it would have required stuff like time-travel, forced aging, false memories or what have you to work.

While Kurt in any case, also as brother or nephew, would in all likelihood have been Mystique’s only living blood relation, to me that is strong enough a reason for her to behave as she did in Uncanny X-Men #177.

So the later claim that Chris intended Nightcrawler to be the biological son of Mystique and Destiny which editorial would never let fly, the fact that he earlier indicated abandoning the origin for Kurt he planned to emerge out of Judith Rassendyll’s introduction because it just wasn’t clicking for him, I’d suggest this wasn’t what he intended from those earlier stories and the above is more likely.

So how to explain Chris’s later introduction of the Mr. Raven character working alongside Irene Adler in X-Men: True Friends set in 1936?

I have no idea, but let me leave you with the following…

After Roger Stern refused to allow Claremont to proceed with revealing Nightmare as Kurt’s father, it is interesting to note that before Chris began overtly implying a relationship between Mystique and Destiny (beginning, I’d suggest with Uncanny X-Men #170) he “plundered” recurring Ka-Zar the Savage series villain and demon-sorcerer of Limbo, Belasco, for the X-corner of the Marvel Universe for several years hence.

In addition, not only did Belasco have pointy ears like Nightmare, and as sorcerer-priest of Limbo, rulership of a demonic dimension, but a forked, prehensile tail like Nightcrawler.

Almost immediately after procuring Belasco as a villain for the X-titles, Claremont revealed the Elder Gods the demon-sorcerer served as his very own Elder Gods, the N’Garai.

It is worth noting here that Claremont named his Elder Gods after the Basque term for conquerors, “Garai” (Chris would well have known this given he further referred to the cult of humans dedicated to these demons as the Camarilla of the N’Garai, “camarilla” a particularly Basque term).

So does this explain why Chris suddenly latched onto Belasco as an X-villain?  That is, upon realising his name was Spanish/ Basque for “little raven”, bela- being raven and “-sco” meaning little.

Of further note is that Belasco made a deal with his “Elder Gods” for immortality on the basis he would return to earth and become the “Father” of a new race of Earth-Born Demons.

Recall too in the Magik Limited Series, out of those X-Men who survived becoming entrapped in Limbo trying to rescue Colossus’s younger sister, Illyana, Storm and Kitty got corrupted by the demonic realm but remained independent, whereas Kurt was the one who fell most under Belasco’s control, becoming his “familiar”.

So was Claremont entertaining Nightcrawler as an Earth-born demon, and Belasco as his Father (and Margali Szardos perhaps his biological mother)?

Post-script: Chris confirmed my suspicions that Jimaine was not Margali’s biological daughter, but one of her foundlings, in his recent Nightcrawler series, specifically issue #2 (2014). 

Advertisements

…why a Burglar traveled from Midtown Manhattan to suburban Queens?

While considered a classic, Marv Wolfman’s “Dutch Malone” anniversary story in Amazing Spider-Man #200 represents a major lost opportunity in that it never effectively addressed the “Mother of All Coincidences” left over from the original story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in Amazing Fantasy #15 whereby an anonymous criminal who encounters Spider-Man in a TV Studio in Midtown Manhattan a few hours later comes completely by coincidence to the house in Queens where Spider-Man lives.

Steve and Stan did, of course, only have eleven pages to tell their tale, but Marv had thirty-seven, more than ample space…

And, remember, it’s not just the burglar… it was also the same cop, Captain Harrigan, in Manhattan and Queens.  Heck of a precinct don’t you think!

How is it that no writer – and out of all Marvel’s titles Spidey has had some of the best – has been able to come up with a simple, easy solution, a connection that makes it perfectly logical for all the necessary people to be in the right place(s) at the right time(s) without violating anything we already know?

The fix needs to answer:

“What gets the burglar and the cop from a random encounter with Spider-Man in Midtown Manhattan to the very house in Queens in which Spider-Man lives?”

By saying “the burglar had stashed loot in the house” another layer of coincidence was merely added by Wolfman, rather than explained away.

However, by saying: “Both the burglar and Captain Harrigan were from the Forest Hills/ Queens area,” we can assume that the burglar, having seen Spider-Man while casing the Parker house, made the trip to the TV Studio in Manhattan (followed by Harrigan, of course) for the purpose of finding Spider-Man there.

It would seem to be the only reasonable explanation for why both he and Harrigan were so far from home (and also a reason why he’s “rifling through the dressing rooms”).

Better to connect the Burglar to both Ben and Spider-Man, so that the coincidence element can finally be laid to rest.

The coincidence is not that the guy robbing the Manhattan TV station improbably ends up robbing the Parker house in Queens, but that the guy casing out the Parker house in Queens surely turns up at the Manhattan TV station.

With a connection to Spider-Man now established a priori, you have a reason for the burglar to be there even if not stated.

So the burglar bursts into the house, clamouring for Spider-Man. They scuffle. The shot rings out.  Uncle Ben is dead.  If ever Aunt May had a reason to not like Spider-Man much before, she sure is given a doozy of one now!  This would be an intentional underscoring of her feelings, like removing yet another coincidence from the Spider-Man mythos.  Aunt May’s dislike of Spider-Man was obviously there to add one more thorn to poor Peter’s side – we always needed there to be something more to it than her just being gullible to buy the unsubstantiated twaddle J. Jonah Jameson was peddling in the Daily Bugle.  This, for me, is it.

As to why the guy was initially casing out the Parker house in Queens…

…after the scene in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5 which had Peter finding pictures and clippings of his deceased parents after moving an old trunk in his Aunt’s house, the subsequent revelation that they were American counter-spies, written by Stan himself I might add who contributed to Wolfman’s story, seemed like the perfect gift…

That is, the burglar was actually after notebooks of Richard and Mary Parker, and Ben recognised him, which was why the burglar shot him to shut him up…

…the complete Super-Soldier formula… set-up notes and everything… which makes the whole origin make sense.

The burglar (doing a little freelance on the side) sees a kid with super-strength demolish a pro-wrestler three times his size. He steals the gate – but what he’s REALLY after is the sign-in-book (a good diversion, since everyone will think he’s just after the money).

And he deliberately chooses his exit to get a close look at the kid.

There he sees it, on the sign-in sheet: Peter Parker, Forest Hills.

Bingo! His higher-ups immediately make the Richard Parker connection, and believe that young Parker has gotten hold of his Dad’s notes and given himself super-strength. Or maybe it’s Ben Parker’s doing. Doesn’t really matter! So he’s instructed to go after the notebook.

He goes to the house, looks for the notebook, doesn’t find it (because it doesn’t exist); wakes up Ben. Ben recognises him, the thief shoots him. He scarpers.

Thief is now on the lam for the murder. His higher ups decide to burn him since he didn’t get the formula. He’s terrified – not because of the New York cops, but because Ben has a file with both the FBI and CIA, if only because he’s Parker’s older brother – but also because he knows that he’s being chased by a super-powered teenager who might very well literally tear him limb from limb.

This does, of course, complicate the simplicity of the original story – but a neatly tied bow, don’t you think?!

…Avalanche’s ethnicity?

While the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition #1 revealed that member of the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Avalanche, was Greek and his name was Dominic Petros…

…when seen without his mask in Uncanny X-Men #141 he is clearly not of that ethnicity…

…and in Uncanny X-Men #223, Claremont reveals his real name to be Domenic Szilard…

…this surname, plus the spelling of “Domenic” indicative of his being of Hungarian descent.

In UXM #255, Claremont further reinforces the Hungarian connection by Avalanche being referred to as Janos…

…so I’m assuming he intended his full name was Domenic Janos Szilard.  The surname Szilard means “solid, firm” and is the Hungarian vernacular form of Constantine.

Sadly Fabian Nicieza goes on to cement OHTOMUDE #1’s faux-pas in continuity…

…a fact sadly held to since.

So now to my No-Prize explanation:

I would posit that Avalanche had a Greek passport under the name Dominic Petros, but it was just an alias.

As to why he travelled to and from Greece?!

In X-Treme X-Men #4, when searching for Destiny’s Diaries, Ororo finds her will in which it is discovered that she has left Rogue as the sole heiress of her estate…

…and in X-Women it is further revealed this inheritance includes a villa on the Greek island of Kirinos.

So how long had Destiny owned a villa in Kirinos?

I would posit she had at least owned it before the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants had gone public in Uncanny X-Men #142, and that the island hideaway had acted as a private training location for the team…

…Avalanche putting his powers to the test there without much external monitoring.

That is, the Cyclades chain of islands off the coast of Greece is known for regular earth tremors, so any such ones produced by his practice/ training with the team would not have been suspected as caused by a mutant.

…the Scourge of the Underworld’s identity?

3111208-nomadThe following guest post comes from AF McGill who has been reading comics since 1995 and collecting them since 2006. Despite that, she finds herself hating comics more often than not. She might be a contrarian, she might be wrong or she might just be passionate to the point of insanity. She has absolutely no love for several of the “acclaimed” creators or books, instead her favourite comics include mostly Mark Gruenwald, J.M. DeMatteis, Fabian Nicieza, John Byrne and Roger Stern stuff. Her favourite characters are a bit more traditional and include Spider-Man, Captain America, Quasar, Quicksilver and Emma Frost. She also likes some DC but not enough to ever write anything of meaningfully amount about them.  Over to AF:

Jack was the 1950s Bucky who took an incomplete version of the super soldier serum and wound up going a bit insane and becoming an evil racist. He was eventually rehabilitated by S.H.I.E.L.D. during the 1980s and became the real Captain America’s sidekick as Nomad.

figure-01

During J.M. DeMatteis’ Captain America run, Nomad is routinely shown to be a bit of a chump. He always falls into traps, he is headstrong and brash, pessimistic and defeatist and his old way of black-and-white thinking is too ingrained for him to truly accept the way things are now. One more than one occasion, Nomad uses excessive force on super-villains much to the protests of Captain America while Nomad debates Cap’s lake of finite action and how the villains will always come back and they don’t care for the sanctity of life the way Cap does for theirs.

figure-02figure-03DeMatteis wraps up writing the book with #300, and then we enter the “Gruenwald era” (although the first few issues aren’t by him, they still feel part of his run). One of Gruenwald’s first goals was to write Nomad out as he saw no point of having Captain America have a sidekick who had equal (or debatably greater) strength to him. There’s a lot going on with Nomad in this issue, firstly Nomad tries to establish a normal civilian life for himself as Jack Monroe and it seems to be going well but then it’s all ruined one day by the arrival of a super-villain called Madcap. Jack is fired from his new job, rejected by the girl he fancied and then pursues Madcap to exact revenge. Instead, Nomad ends up discussing philosophy with Madcap who is… well, mad. Eventually, Nomad, who’s agenda and views are portrayed as wonky throughout the tale, takes Madcap down by himself and announces to Captain America that he wants to strike out on his own and try being a hero in his own way.

figure-04Captain America #309 ends with Nomad and Cap parting ways.

figure-05And started pretty much then across all the Marvel books, Scourge arrived. A master of disguise who dispensed justice by executing supervillains. Of particular note in Captain America #311 – only 2 issues after Nomad left the book – Scourge makes one of his first appearances targetting Constrictor who is the first supervillain Nomad faced on his return in DeMatteis run, a supervillain who beat Nomad spectacularly. Scourge’s assassination of Constrictor is foiled by Cap but Scourge is more successful in other appearances.

figure-06figure-07In Captain America #319, after the mass murder at the Bar with No Name, Scourge removes his mask and his silhouette could match Jack.

figure-08Likewise on the cover to #320 shows Scourge unmasked and the person again resembles Jack.

figure-09However in the actual issue, he doesn’t have the same features as on the cover.

So, eventually, the storyline/crossover is wrapped up in the aforementioned Captain America #320 where Captain America draws Scourge out into the opening by disguising himself as a super-villain as bait. This is where the story gives us the great ambiguity with the ending. “Scourge” arrives to assassinate Captain America but is depicted in an entirely black catsuit costume which is neither Scourge’s costume nor a disguise.

figure-10Captain America subdues “Scourge” and unmasks him to discover he doesn’t know who the guy is. “Scourge” offers up a origin story but before Captain America can cart him off to jail, “Scourge” is shot dead from off-panel as a voice cries out “Justice is served!” (Scourge’s catchphrase).

figure-11figure-12The issue points out all the possible things going on here. Was that REALLY Scourge Cap caught? Or was Scourge still at large? Who killed him?

figure-13For the sake of this, we are going with the idea that Captain America going on the television to bait Scourge inspired a copycat to follow in Scourge’s steps. Cap fought the copycat and when captured the copycat offered up a pleasing sounding tidy origin story. He was in it for the glory (as echoed in his “went out with a bang”). The copycat was assassinated by the real Scourge who arrived later and discovered it was a trap when he found Cap fighting “Scourge”. Realizing this was also a perfect “out”, especially since Captain America was now investigating him, Scourge retired for a time following this.

The Scourge saga resolved then in #320. And what do you know in #324, Nomad – who has been absent from the book since #309 – returns! This time Nomad is planning to murder a drug dealer called the Slug and is employing disguises to get close to his target. How appropriately Scourge-like.

figure-14Captain America eventually confronts Nomad and the two engage in a debate and a fight over killing a villain.

figure-15Eventually, Nomad relents but makes no effort to save the Slug’s life, firmly establishing that Nomad can’t argue with Captain America but doesn’t agree with Cap.

figure-16Nomad remains a supporting character in the book for the next 20 or so issues. This debate continually rears it’s head. Nomad is always quick to suggest fighting or killing baddies and in #340, when Captain America isn’t around, he proudly allows super-villain Vibro to fall to his death.

figure-17Honestly though, I’m glancing over a lot, there is loads of more evidence in both these issues and the DeMatteis issues to support Jack’s uneven character but they usually are a lot of very similar debates about brutality/killing, Nomad acting suspicious or being unstable, Nomad being cynical about the whole superheroes v supervillains dichotomy. I’ve not even mentioned his frequent bouts of anger with “boy scout” D-Man.

Eventually, Captain America and Nomad lock horns over these issues in #345 and a drunk Nomad, after suggesting “storming” the Commission on Superhuman Activities, gets mad and basically calls Cap a pussy. This is Nomad leaving the book’s supporting cast. Forever, actually. He never does return to the book.

figure-18That was #345. In #347, you’ll never guess who returns? Scourge. This time Scourge is shown assassinating the 1950s Red Skull – one of Nomad’s MAJOR enemies.

figure-19figure-20A subsequent appearance (#351) has Scourge arriving at the Commission on Superhuman Activities office and assassinating a member of the Watchdogs (after he in turn attempted to assassinate John Walker). This neatly aligns and mirrors with Jack’s proposed attack on the CSA.

figure-21But by then the Scourge thing more or less fell apart. There was contradictory appearances and a complete lack of success of Scourge’s part to actual do anything. The character was shown to be associated with the Red Skull but also shown to be operating independent. He was killed in one issue by the Red Skull and re-appeared in another completely fine. Eventually we got the explanation that Scourge was basically an organization funded by the Golden Age Angel and there were loads of them.

Meanwhile, Nomad eventually pursued his whole Renegade Easy Rider solo series when he began to notice the complexities of villainy and the law (that’s the actual canon reason for that cosmetic change). Many many years later, Nomad did actually become Scourge in Thunderbolts #33-50. At this time, it was the result of brainwashing.

Here’s where the more tenuous stretches come in.

I’m not sure how to handle Nomad’s relationship with GA Angel. On one hand, the first time around with Scourge, it’s not necessary. But if I want the Scourge who appears in #346-351 to be Nomad, it needs to be established. However, that second round can also be attributed to a subsequent Scourge – but it does ruin the neatness Nomad’s storming out and returning next issue as Scourge.

Secondly, a lot of people cite the Scourge appearance in an issue of Thing where Scourge was disguised as a female wrestler as early evidence there were more than one Scourge because he passed himself off as a scantily clad female.

figure-22However, in Captain America #320, we see Scourge disguised as a pretty convincing woman.

figure-23He also disguised himself as women in other issues such as Cap #311.

figure-24In one issue of Nomad’s solo series, he dresses up as a woman to go undercover.

figure-25When Nomad was Scourge in Thunderbolts, he used an image inducer. He could use one here but that makes the idea of disguises a bit redundant. But Scourge was a MASTER of disguise, he could disguise himself as a bulked up female wrestler.

It’s actually pretty easy to rationalize that Nomad and Angel have met or have a previously unseen adventure together. For what it’s worth, Nomad was shown to interact and have unseen history with some other Golden Age heroes in New Invaders #2 and #9.

figure-26Nomad and Angel (along with “sidekick” Domino, Scourge’s info supplier) could have been behind the original Scourge and when Nomad abandoned the guise he convinced Angel and Domino that they should lay low for a while until the heat dies down so Captain America or others don’t investigate them. Or perhaps first time around it was just Nomad and Domino and Angel only came onboard to finance the second round. Either way, After Nomad returned to Captain America’s side, Angel received funding and support from “John Smith” (a.k.a. Red Skull).

I also think it’s a very very smart way of explaining the sudden change in the Scourge organization as being the suggestion of Red Skull – who himself was exploring capitalist ventures, as a means of spreading his evil. He gave Angel the idea to restructure the Scourge idea now as an actual organization with several Scourges (unknowingly ultimately in the Skull’s pocket). But this may have come before or after Nomad’s brief return.

When Nomad abandoned Captain America he briefly returned to being Scourge for a few hits. He was happy to assassinate 50s Red Skull at the command of “John Smith” due to his past with 50s Skull. Or perhaps “John Smith” is receiving the report from GA Angel and Nomad really isn’t aware of the outside source of target selection.

figure-27Either way his next hit was again personal; U.S.Agent.

However the first new recruit appeared in #350…

figure-28However, he was beaten and killed (latter off-panel) by U.S.Agent. (originally I came up with that this could be Jack, and the reason he stopped being Scourge was when he realized “John Smith” was also aligned and working with terrorists, but you see a big pool of blood coming from Scourge on a later page).

figure-29Nomad soon went to the building housing the CSA to kill U.S.Agent but instead found he’d been beaten to it by what was apparently a member of the Watchdogs. Nomad killed him instead and fled.

Following that Nomad hastily abandoned the guise forever, either realizing that the Scourge organization was being played by “John Smith” (and suspecting that the information he was fed about U.S.Agent had also been supplied to the Watchdogs). He may also have been aware of the new recruit who died in #350 alongside other terrorists which further made him realize Scourge was being made into a puppet. Or he didn’t agree with the idea of franchising the Scourge character.

However, Angel was either not made aware of Nomad’s concerns or didn’t care where the funding was coming from since it seemed sincere in support and he continued the program with what was now an organization with it with multiple new recruits to be Scourge. At least one of whom was loyal to Skull.

(Note: In actual fact the “Watchdog” was a CSA agent in disguise)

The Skull had high expectations for his new Scourge organization but found them to be incompetent without a dedicated operative like Nomad and abandoned them – killing (one of?) his inside men and cutting off funding.

figure-30figure-31Despite this, Angel had enough money to continue on. Nomad’s hatred for John Walker from those issues in the #340s could also contextualize why the Scourge organization / GA Angel spent so long screwing with U.S.Agent in U.S.Agent #1-4. Maybe they even held him responsible for Nomad retiring as Scourge.

figure-32And that’s more or less it. Nomad pursued his solo career as a hardened but complex character and along the way began to realize the Scourge M.O. didn’t really work. There was evil that escaped notice, there was innocent people, there were victims who turned to crime. And his care for Baby Bucky also helped him find the humanity and balance to stop him from going full-on Scourge again.

Also worth noting is following the original Scourge saga, Jack hooks up with a woman Priscilla Lyons who is the basic reason Nomad was going after Slug that time. They eventually fall apart but she goes on to becomes one of the subsequent Scourge recruits in U.S.Agent #1-4.

In all his publishing existence Nomad has been brainwashed 6 times and he has been “dead” 3 times. If ever a character was so messed up in the head to justify dramatic psychotic breaks in becoming a serial killer, it’s Jack Monroe. But, as you can see, it takes quite a lot of legwork to reconcile the latter appearances, but in my mind, the original Scourge was definitely Nomad. While I think the Scourge well has been tapped well past the point of dehydration and adding anything else to it would be pointless, if I was writing Captain America or an appropriate book, I would try and find some way to hint at this idea. Even if it was just adding a few big hints that Nomad was the original Scourge without actually pursuing the idea beyond suggestions.

…Black Widow’s unusually youthful lifespan?

A year after the Communists rejected Nixon’s Five-Point Peace Plan for Southeast Asia and Matt Damon’s birth, Brian C. Saunders was born to redress the balance. Regrettably, the infant failed to stop either the Vietnam conflict or Matt Damon’s career.  For his sins, he was punished with enrolment in US public education and, addled with lack of knowledge, went on to public university for good measure. During this time, he filled his hours with drugs, alcohol and sex with women comic books!, which filled his days with a warm and happy glow. Many careers later, he writes for the public good, using facts and avoiding social media for information or human interaction.  You who read this are welcome.

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanov, aka the Black Widow, was at a bit of a crossroads in 1990.  That’s when she unexpectedly appeared in one of the most popular issues of the Uncanny X-Men, #268, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Jim Lee.

figure-01_uxm268At the time, for anyone who had been reading comics for over five years, it would have come as no surprise to see the late 20’s Black Widow turning out to have known Wolverine since her childhood since by that stage, the trope of Wolverine already knowing everyone who turned up in his path had become an entrenched part of the character.

figure-02a_mfan24_loganfuryfigure-02b_uxm228_gyrichWhat would have confused readers, though, is the fact that Uncanny #268 depicts Natasha as a young child in World War II, almost 50 years before the present of the issue’s main story.

figure-03a_uxm268So what sort of perspective might Chris Claremont have had to account for the Black Widow’s apparent lack of aging?

Readers would sadly never find out, since while the September 1990 dated issue of Uncanny X-Men #268 raises the question, it never provides an answer, and Claremont is booted off the title before having an opportunity to follow the story up at a later date.

“Madripoor Knights” is very much a Wolverine story.  It is early in Captain America’s career, in “Late-Summer 1941” that he engages ninjas (genin field agents) of the Hand on the streets of Madripoor to rescue Ivan Petrovich.

figure-03b_uxm268Both men are hard pressed to overcome the tide of battle against them, when Logan (the character we are to know as Wolverine) appears, turning the tide in Cap and Ivan’s favour.  After the fight, Logan takes the two men to a local establishment, Seraph’s Bar, where Logan and Cap are briefed by Ivan on his mission and Logan narrowly avoids causing a bar fight with Baron von Strucker and his Nazi aide.

Natasha Romanov has been captured by Strucker to be delivered to the Hand.  The Hand has identified her as gifted with extraordinary aptitude for the martial arts, and means to begin her indoctrination into their organisation.

figure-03c_uxm268The men rescue Natasha but lose Logan, and instead of returning to the bar they go to the local American Consul, who, turning out to be a fascist loyal to the Nazis, promptly delivers them back to Strucker and the Hand.  Only Logan’s return to the conflict halts the ritual death of Ivan and Cap by a blade wielded by the Hand-entranced Natasha.  Freed to act, together the three men defeat Strucker and the Hand, and Logan sees to the safe return of all involved to their respective countries.

In the present of the story, Natasha, as the Black Widow, is surveilling the sibling group Fenris: Andrea and Andreas von Strucker, mutant children of the abovementioned Baron.  She falls prey to Hand field agents under the command of the evil organisation’s new jonin, Matsuo Tsurayaba, but is rescued by Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke who are on the run and searching for the missing X-Men. Upon her recovery, Natasha hugs her “Little Uncle”, Logan, and expresses concern at his debilitated state.  After briefing them, Logan and Natasha draw comparisons with their previous encounter almost 50 years ago to a dismayed Jubilee’s shock.

figure-03d_uxm268Natasha and the X-Men find an informant who gives up a meet location for Fenris and Matsuo. The location turns out to be a sham with decoys, and the villains themselves drink a toast to their victory from a safe, alternative location.

To understand this curious story requires a little history of Marvel itself.  Established in 1961, the Marvel Universe was born piecemeal from characters created in the late 1930’s and 40’s such as Captain America.  Steve Rogers was created in fact early in the year of 1941, a year partially known for fighting in Europe and sabre-rattling from the Pacific.  Nazi political interference with Jews in Germany had by this point become rumors of Ghettos and disappearing of Jewish citizens under German political influence.  These rumors of later proven fact became the impetus that Captain America was created out of, and Marvel had a patriotic Nazi fighter all ready when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

Captain America would go on to return again and again after the war in Marvel’s publishing history, but it was only in Avengers #4 in 1963 that Steve Rogers would return to ongoing publication.  Not long after, 1964 to be precise, the Black Widow was created.  She was a secret agent for the USSR who bedeviled Iron Man…

figure-04a_tos52…a Cold War femme fatale who seduces the unaware Hawkeye into supporting her missions against the USA.

figure-04d_tos57In a few years, she has defected to the West, gotten a makeover as a superhero and uses her Soviet training and “Widow Sting” equipment to fight for the Avengers…

figure-05_avengers-30_-1st-widows-sting…go on to work for the Western-based spy organization, SHIELD…

figure-06_avengers-38_-1st-mission-for-shield…and date Daredevil.

figure-07_daredevil-84_1st-dateAt this time, some background started to be established for the Black Widow.  She acquired a chauffeur who apparently had a long standing relationship with Natasha and he rescued her from her bombed house in Stalingrad during WWII.

figure-08b_daredevil-88_ivan-rescues-natThen, in Daredevil #102, Chris Claremont went on to establish two things about the Black Widow.  Her middle name was Alianovna.  Russian middle names are patronyms which means the name is a version of their father’s first name.  So Natasha’s father is named Alian Romanoff.

figure-09_daredevil-102_1st-alianovnaThe second thing was that in the omnipotent captions, she is referred to as a Tsarina, which means “Empress Queen”.

figure-10_daredevil-102_1st-tsarinaAs Natasha is called Princess throughout Uncanny #268…

figure-11_uxm268_tsarina…Claremont is clearly implying that Natasha is in fact the last surviving heir to the Russian monarchy and Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias!

figure-12_uxm268_last-surviving-heir-of-the-russian-monarchyBut by 1990, Madame Romanoff would have been well over 50 years the age that she was depicted in 1990.  In 1964, this would have not been a problem.  In 1990, though, she was still a clearly young woman and always had been.

figure-13_uxm268_over-50-years-oldAt this point, it is necessary to remember that the Marvel Universe has a compressed time line.  Though most of it has been depicted beginning from 1967, in fact, the compression means that working backward from the present (currently early 21st Century, the beginning of the modern Marvel Universe, Fantastic Four #1, takes place in the early 2000’s and not 1961.  However, characters tied into fixed events, such as the Cold War or World War II, require explanations to orient the reader into how they can exist in the endless present of the Marvel Universe.  For instance, Captain America, fell into suspension animation towards the end of WWII until he awoke in Avengers #4.  But the Black Widow, a WWII child survivor, had no ready reference for her youth.  How could this be?

Some real word history is called for at this point.  During the Russian Civil War, the ruling monarchy was killed.

figure-14a_-colour-restored-picture-of-romanov-familyAmong them was Grand Duchess (or Princess) Anastasia, about whom rumors persisted throughout the 20th Century to the extent that she had survived and escaped.

figure-14b_grand-duchess-princess-anastasiaSeveral women claimed to be the surviving Anastasia, but none were accepted as such in their lifetimes and have since been disproven upon the discovery of the real Anastasia’s grave and subsequent DNA testing.

However, we are talking about the Marvel Universe, which can diverge from ours in subtle ways.  Anastasia was born in 1901.  Natasha Romanoff would have been born in the mid-to-late 1930’s.  It is possible she could be the daughter of Anastasia, if her mother had survived and stayed in Stalingrad and married a man named Alian Romanoff.  This seems unlikely to me as the Secret Police would never have countenanced the existence of a Royal Heir surviving or furthering the line.  The real Anastasia and her family were executed to prevent any threat to the dominance of the Communist Party’s control on the new government.  Moreover, none of the women who claimed to be Anastasia did so within the USSR, but safely in foreign countries far away.  It’s therefore very unlikely the real Anastasia could have lived in open sight in Stalingrad until World War II.

So how could Chris Claremont have reasoned this?

Natasha survived the destruction of her own home during the Battle of Stalingrad which took place from August 23, 1942 to February, 2 1943.  We know this because she told this to Viper in Marvel Team-Up #85.

figure-15_marvel-team-up-85-p13She could only safely exist in her homeland if all the ruling Romanoffs were believed dead.  But, what if there was a heretofore unknown infant born just before the February Revolution?  Conceived and born in secret because of the impeding revolution, this boy would have been the last hope for Nicholas II to continue the Romanoff house and restore the monarchy.  He could not remain in St. Petersburg, but was removed by a trusted retainer to the city of Stalingrad, where he could be raised in safety.  Nicholas II gives his lastborn son Alian Romanoff to his trusted retainer, Ivan Petrovitch.  Petrovitch raises the young Alian in a house purchased with what would be his family inheritance and there, Alian would grow to manhood, being trained by Ivan and study, waiting for the opportunity to regain the throne. Alian marries and the union produces Natasha, who is naturally athletic.  As World War II commences, Alian and his wife allow Natasha to train in ballet.  Her ballet performances expose the child’s prowess to the local martial arts community, resulting in her abduction by the Hand.  Unwilling to alert the Russian authorities, Ivan is enlisted to undertake the mission to save Natasha.  Alian’s wealth has allowed him to make contacts with foreign governments such as the USA, who are very interested when the heir to Russia’s throne asks for help and send their top asset, Steve Rogers as Captain America to Madripoor to meet Ivan, thus setting the stage for a young Steve Rogers to meet Logan and rescue Natasha.

In 1990, it had been many years since Black Widow’s WWII history had been referenced and many political changes had befallen the relationship with East and West since.  It was a shock to see it thoroughly and somewhat definitely referenced.  The floating timeline of the Marvel Universe wherein all present day issues took place in a past circa some eight to nine years since Fantastic Four #1 meant that the Black Widow’s childhood, fixed in WWII made her older than her apparent age.  While her present day adventures could be compressed, her past expanded as her meeting Wolverine and Captain America, and presence at the battle of Stalingrad locked her origins much the same way as Captain America and the Sub-Mariner’s were.  Steve Rogers was in a state of suspended animation until Avengers #4, Namor is a hybrid with an enhanced lifespan.  How does the Black Widow, a human peak athlete remain so?

The answer, I posit, lies in Claremont’s Spider-Woman #42, “The Judas Man.”

figure-16a_spider-woman-42_the-judas-manMichael Kramer has disappeared and daughter Pamela hires Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman to find him.  Michael is on the run from Viper and Silver Samurai.  Viper has gotten the catalyst for a virus that’s 99% fatal to all human beings.  In 1944, Kramer and his fellow American servicemen went down behind enemy lines, only to end up implanted with the deadly virus by the Red Skull.  The virus, dubbed the Judas Plague, required genetic modification to create immune plague carriers for distribution of the agent.  The antidote for the plague is generated via human reproduction by the “Judas Men”: their children will be born with the mutated matrix that will provide the antidote.  However, Captain America and Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes destroyed the lab and all the research…

figure-16b_sw42_recap…except for the catalyst which was later found.  The sole survivor of the Judas Plague experiment, Michael escaped, and hid.  He also gained extended longevity…

figure-16c_sw42_michael-kramer-longevity…and his virus was discovered to have mutated into an inert form after Spider-Woman defeated Viper and Samurai’s plot.

figure-16d_sw43_michael-kramers-virus-discovered-to-be-inertIn 1945, we know victorious Russian forces in Germany took resources and assets from the conquered country as reparations for the War.  As part of this process, it is likely the Russians would have been instructed to collect any scientific research or seize sites of laboratories.  Although Fury and Captain America reported the Judas Plague research destroyed, the report was obviously not entirely accurate, given Michael Kramer’s status and the catalyst’s destruction given Viper’s later obtaining of it?

Jessica Drew recounts in Spider-Woman #43 that the Judas Plague was “required reading” for all Hydra agents.

figure-17a_sw43_jessica-recalls-judas-plague-knowledge-from-hydra-trainingViper, having likewise been a Hydra recruit, would have likely known about the site of the experiment and that Fury’s report was inaccurate.

figure-17b_sw42_viper-knew-furys-report-was-inaccurateIt stands to reason, then, that acquiring the Plague was an operational goal for Hydra, so at some point, Hydra got the catalyst from the Russians and Viper later stole it from Hydra.

But what were the Russians doing with it for so long?

By the late 40’s, early 50’s, Natasha Romanoff would have been identified as a prime candidate for espionage.  Instead Natasha was allowed to be a ballerina…

figure-18a_dd104_bolshoi-ballet…and marry Alexei Alanovich Shostakov, a top pilot for the Soviet military.

figure-18b_avengers-44_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAfter she was told he was killed (in reality, Shostakov was in training as the Red Guardian) she volunteered and trained for the KGB.

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashbackThe aptitude for martial arts that the Hand had seen in 1941 would have been manifest and she would have been trained in those arts and spy craft to serve the USSR.  As a Hand candidate for Master Assassin, she would have been top in her class and a prime asset.

figure-18d_dd88_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAs the Red Guardian, Alexei would have been a public figure, a role model to rally Soviet patriotism in the public and inspire fear of the strength of Russian might in the world.

figure-18d_avengers-44-red-guardian-projectThis did not happen because of his apparent death after Avengers #44 and the length of his experiment, which displayed considerable flaws such as his psychological volatility and his willingness to die to save the embodiment of Soviet Russia’s arch-rival.

figure-18d_avengers-44-flashbackHad that not happened, however, he would have been an individual of considerable influence according to Soviet planning.

I would further posit, therefore, that the Soviet government could not allow either Natasha or Alexei such unchecked influence.  Thus, both of them married and were subsequently separated for training alone.  The KGB by this time would have found the surviving German scientists of the Judas Plague experiment site.  Natasha was then subjected to a KGB-run Judas Plague experiment as the agency’s scientists would have deemed her likely to survive and then used as a spy. Natasha would assume the code name of the project, “Black Widow,” although she would be likely be unaware of the actual project or her status as a vector of a plague that could virtually depopulate the planet.  At the time that Alexei completed his training, Natasha would have been reunited with him.

figure-18f_natasha-and-alexeiAnd with that reunion, Alexei would be exposed to the plague, it likely being a sexually transmitted disease, and thereafter he could be deployed in the field with full confidence, either under Natasha’s influence as a loyal wife and operative or blackmailed with his life should he turn against the motherland.  He would serve as public relations at home and at the forefront in the Rodina’s military defense.

However, it obviously took much longer for Alexei to complete his “training.”  The Marvel compressed timeline meant that when Natasha was told Alexei was “dead” in the flashback in Avengers #44…

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashback…she spent decades believing he was dead.  During this time, the Red Guardian project crawled on.  Obviously inspired by the West’s Super Soldier Project, the Soviets’ process was flawed, with Alexei being endowed with superior strength, but a volatile psyche.  These setbacks might have required lengthy periods of mental conditioning, revealing the Super Soldier longevity effect.  Being the first operational asset, any other subjects of the project were likely driven insane if they survived the physical and psychological trauma of the incomplete chemical and radiological procedure.  Alexei’s personality was so altered, Natasha perceived little of the man she loved.  It’s likely he was brainwashed repeatedly in an effort to restore his sanity and bring him to operational readiness.  By the time he was, Natasha’s Judas Plague infection, like Michael Kramer’s, would have been found inert.  Well before then, she would have noticed her own longevity via the Judas Plague process and found out about what happened to her.  She would have been about 40 some years old and although youthful, she would have also realized she was infertile from the Judas Plague treatment (designed for men, I have to assume it wouldn’t be good for a woman’s reproductive ability).  This would have been another factor leading to her eventual defection to the West.

Without either Natasha or the Judas Plague, the Red Guardian project would have needed another control, but it’s likely at this point the break-up of the USSR would have loosened the paranoia and the need for a counterpart to Captain America.  At any rate, the Red Guardian went into the field with an unstable mentality and apparently died, leaving Natasha an indefinitely young widow.  Considering Alexei’s mental instability, his mission would have been selected to cause the most damage and result in his death.  Ironically, he died a hero, saving his wife and Captain America, somewhere in Southeast Asia.

figure-18f_avengers-44-death-of-alexei-shostakovWhen Natasha defected and her infection was inert, the catalyst would have been of no use and the Russians would have been either glad to sell it, or warehouse it.  Through either of those opportunities, Hydra and Viper could have acquired it, not knowing that the lifespan of the active virus in Michael Kramer had already expired.  After Viper stole the project from Hydra, she acquired Michael Kramer before the virus’s efficacy was verified.  By the time Spider-Woman freed Kramer, Viper’s scientists had determined his infection was inert as well.  The project was a failure and was subsequently abandoned, leaving two survivors, Michael Kramer and the Black Widow, forever changed.

Among her friends, such as Ivan and Logan, Natasha is called Princess or Tsarina.  It seems like a nickname to those who overhear, but in truth, she is the last surviving member of the Romanoffs and the rightful heir to the long deposed Russian Monarchy. She will never claim that crown, because her calling is a higher one.  She claims the titles of S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Avenger, and most importantly the Black Widow as a remembrance of the insidious exploitation of female agents by the Rodina through projects like the one that created her.

…Callisto’s origin?

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]…

Figure 01_UXM259_Masque tormentFigure 02_UXM259_Billboard modelFigure 03_UXM259_Model in trouble

…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…

Figure 04_UXM191_Callisto before mutant powers

…and the cryptic scene in #260 with the gang of thugs pursuing her down a dark alley…

Figure 05_UXM260_Model fight back

…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…

Figure 06_UXM170_Callisto's powers

…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”).

Figure 06_UXM211_Callisto's argot

We also know Lila Cheney similarly used British slang.

Figure 07_NMA01_Lila Cheney's accent

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…

Figure 08_NMA01_Earth sold Lila CheneyFigure 09_NM29_Lila stolen and sold

…to an alien who had forced her to participate in intergalactic gladiator tournaments!

Figure 10_NM29_Lila reveals was gladiator

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).

Figure 11_UXM215_Madelyne Pryor pursued by Marauders

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…

Figure 12a_UXM269_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar Imperium_a

…and Uncanny X-Men #274-277…

Figure 12b_UXM276_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar ImperiumFigure 12c_UXM276_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar ImperiumFigure 12d_UXM277_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar Imperium

…I’d propose Shi’ar “Big Bad,” the Emperor D’Ken!

Figure 13_UXM156_D'Ken most likely alien Sinister sold Lila to

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…

Figure 14_UXM104_Shi'ar age accelerator

…which he could use to accelerate his clones to adulthood, like he had with Madelyne Pryor.

Figure 15_UXM240_Mister Sinister's age accelerator

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.

Figure 16_UXM260_Peter Nicholas fighting off Callisto's attackers

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.

Figure 17_UXM232_Psylocke's armour

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.

Figure 18_UXM260_Phillip Moreau sees X-Men masks

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.

Figure 19_UXM250-253_Shadow King controlling DreamtimeGateway’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…

Figure 20_UXM269_Gateway bound to Reavers' service

…who were revealed as the Shadow King’s pawns in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001…

Figure 21_XXMA2001_Donald Pierce as host to Shadow King

…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.

Figure 22_UXM260_Thugs wearing masks out Outback X-Men

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.

Figure 23_UXM169_Callisto's kidnapping of Angel

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.

Figure 24_UXM132_Angel reveals Hellfire Club membershipSo 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…

Figure 25a_UXM134_Donald Pierce hatred mutantsFigure 25b_UXM253_Donald Pierce hatred 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…

Figure 26_CBL49_Donald Pierce reveals the mutant responsible for his condition

…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.

Figure 27a_UXM251_Donald Pierce responsible for original Reavers

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.

Figure 27b_UXM229_Original Reavers

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.

Figure 27c_UXM229_original Reavers had been 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)…

Figure 28a_UXM229_Pretty Boy mind rape of Jessan Hoan

…Dazzler…

Figure 28b_UXM229_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Dazzler

…Lady Deathstrike…

Figure 28c_UXM252_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Lady Deathstrike

…Polaris…

Figure 28d_UXM255_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Polaris

…Rogue…

Figure 28e_UXM269_Pretty Boy intending to mind-rape Rogue

…and Sage.

Figure 28f_XXMA2001_Pretty Boy about to mind-rape Sage

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.

Figure 29a_UXM252_Donald Pierce controlling Lady DeathstrikeFigure 29b_UXM253_Donald Pierce with Lady Deathstrike

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.

Figure 30a_UXM169 212_Morlock tunnels psychic interference

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.

Figure 30_UXM276_Lila's pledge to Deathbird

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…

Figure 31_UXM263_Masque's defeat

…and what would appear to be a happy ending for Peter and Callisto in Uncanny X-Men #264…

Figure 32_UXM264_Callisto and Colossus's happy ending

…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:(

Figure 33_UXM279_Colossus under the Shadow King's thrall

 

 

the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy?

star-wars-maz-kanata-700x300

You’re thinking it’s a little early to be considering fixing the new Sequel Trilogy when only a third of it has been released. However, while it’s true the recent release of the first instalment, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is meeting with commercial acclaim (even now firing photon torpedoes on Avatar’s record), once the dust has settled it is likely to not maintain the reactive critical acclaim it has to date received and in hindsight will be acknowledged as a hugely entertaining but extremely derivative entry into the saga.

I won’t be getting into debates via comments to this article about how this new sequel trilogy might be derivative but will at least be better than any new move that George Lucas has made in the past twenty years, or would likely have made if Disney had allowed him to share custody of the franchise going forward, as we’ve already heard any number of fans reviling the Prequel Trilogy and Clone Wars (just as original fans not only found the Ewoks insufferable, but Yoda before them).

My aim in this article is to consider alternatively how a happy medium might have been reached with Disney moving the franchise forward, while at the same time acknowledging how they would not have such a successful franchise had it not been for George Lucas in the first place, through thereby respecting his original vision for the Sequel Trilogy, instead of him ending up having nothing to do with the production of The Force Awakens or its frequently evolving script and the recent news from Lucas himself that his ideas were at least partly scrapped.

And so my theory begins with the following statue/ idol in Anakin Skywalker’s bedroom on Tatooine in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, firstly shown in the scene where R2-D2 rolls through the doorway when Anakin shows Padme C-3PO…

Maz Kanata-Phantom Menace-1

…and as Anakin later leaves the bedroom for the last time to travel to Coruscant with Qui-Gon Jinn to be trained as a Jedi…

Maz Kanata-Phantom Menace-2

Then recall back in 1983, how Return of the Jedi director, Richard Marquand, spoke to Prevue magazine…

Prevue magazine Jun-Jul 1983

…after completing his work on the final instalment of the original trilogy about George’s plans for Episode VII-IX:

“If you follow the direction, and project into the final trilogy [i.e. Episode VII-IX], you realise that you’re going to meet the supreme intellect, and you think how is it possible to create a man who has such profound cunning that he can not only control Darth Vader, but the fate of Luke Skywalker? Control the destiny of the whole galaxy? You’ll be amazed!”

So it’s clear that even as far back as the 1980s, Lucas had envisioned there being another player behind-the-scenes of the Original Trilogy story who had been in control the whole time.

In addition, Dale Pollock, author of the 1984 George Lucas biography, Skywalking: The Life And Films Of George Lucas, spoke with The Wrap back in October, 2012 and revealed his thoughts on the original dozen stories Lucas wrote treatments for. When writing the biography, he was able to read all of the stories but signed non-disclosure agreements on their contents:

“It was originally a 12-part saga. The three most exciting stories were 7, 8 and 9. They had propulsive action, really interesting new worlds, new characters. I remember thinking, ‘I want to see these 3 movies.”

While in this interview, Pollack called the Prequel Trilogy “dreadful”, he had very positive things to say about the ideas behind the next two trilogies, stories he confidently believed Disney would use, claiming they represented one of the reasons Disney made the acquisition of Lucasfilm in the first place.

Now while Lucas had obviously intended this character of “profound cunning” to be male, with Disney redirecting their stories in these new films to feature females in more prominent roles (although to give credit where credit is due, Lucas set the precedent in the Original Trilogy by establishing Princess Leia as one of the earliest examples of a female character whose power came from her political conviction and acumen and whose passion influences the two male leads, Luke and Han to take their places as full participants in the Rebellion), is it that they haven’t entirely abandoned Lucas’s original vision for the Sequel Trilogy but have chosen Maz Kanata as this “supreme intellect”, this “Phantom Menace” (and not Jar Jar Binks as has previously been proposed by fellow theorist Lumpawarroo)?

We know from the flags shown hanging from the exterior entrance of her castle (on the planet of Takodana) below…

Boonta Eve flags hanging from Maz Kanata's castle

…are identical to those used in the procession at the start of the renowned Pod Race on Boonta Eve in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, that she has some connection to Tatooine.

Boonta Eve flag parade from The Phantom Menace

What that connection is intended to be isn’t clear yet…

…but did Kanata, or one of her agents, gift the idol (that resembled her) to a very young Anakin, or his mother Shmi…

…and was it imbued with her Dark Side energies for the purpose of influencing him from as early an age as possible?

Think about it too, Maz Kanata slyly watching over Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine a dark parallel to Ben Kenobi’s watching over Luke Skywalker.

Of further interest in this new film is that in addition to the introduction of Maz Kanata, we are also introduced to another new character earlier in the film played by Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), an actor renowned to fans of science fantasy/ horror as Father Lankester Merrin, veteran Catholic priest (rather than Church of the Force priest;) from the classic film, The Exorcist. Recall his character in that film finds the amulet resembling the statue of Pazuzu on an archaeological dig in Iraq, the demon he defeated years earlier (as shown below).

Pazuzu statue and Max von Sydow in The Exorcist

It’s interesting that the statue of Maz Kanata in Anakin Skywalker’s bedroom on Tatooine appears to have the one flat tone, just as does the statue of Pazuzu above.

As for who Maz’s agent on Tatooine was, recall that when young Anakin met Qui-Gon Jinn he recognised him as a Jedi almost immediately, suggesting he had previously encountered one (somewhat unusual given the Jedi were not tending to interfere in events in the Outer Rim prior to their realisation of the re-emergence of the Sith).

So was that agent perhaps Quinlan Vos, the dreadlocked dude sitting outside the Cantina shown below observing the conflict that broke out between Sebulba, Jar Jar Binks and Anakin (who was later revealed to be a Jedi in The Clone Wars).

Quinlan Vos in The Phantom Menace

Or, given Kanata’s castle is meant to echo the original “hive of scum and villainy” that was the Mos Eisley Cantina, with its primary patrons being smugglers, might this suggest that Maz doubled as a smuggler herself, or better yet a slave trader in the years leading up to The Phantom Menace?!

Was she the one who first sold Shmi Skywalker to Gardulla the Hutt to ensure the Force-sensitive child, Anakin, was raised in an Outer Rim Territory where it would be less likely for him to end up identified by the Jedi Council and trained in the ways of the light side from an early age?

Was she perhaps the Sith Master of Darth Plagueis, and compelled him to manipulate the midi-chlorians to create Anakin? She is after all even older than Yoda, having been revealed by J.J. Abrams to have lived “over a thousand years”!!!

And is Max von Sydow’s inclusion in the film as priest of the Church of the Force meant to make us recall the demon Pazuzu with whom his character was said to have done battle with in The Exorcist?

Need further convincing?  It’s not only interesting that Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana, according to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary…

Star Wars Force Awakens Visual Dictionary

…was built on an ancient Jedi and Sith battleground, but that the working title of the film during production was “The Ancient Fear”.

Ancient Fear - original working title of Episode VII

While this “ancient fear” could be interpreted as Supreme Leader Snoke, he hasn’t been referred to as such yet, whereas J.J. Abrams has made an effort to point out that Maz is over one thousand years old.  Also, according to the visual dictionary, she is Force sensitive, but not trained in the Jedi arts! This immediately brings to mind Palpatine’s own background as a Force user who was recruited by the Sith Master, Darth Plagueis, before the Jedi had an opportunity to train him.

Another interesting part of her character is her collection of old relics – one of which is Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, the one passed down to Luke in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope by Ben Kenobi on Tatooine…

Obi-Wan handing Luke his father's lightsaber

…and which he lost (along with the hand he wielded it with) in battle against his father on Cloud City in the overture to that most famous of scenes in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke loses lightsaber along with his hand

Given Vader left a garrison behind on Cloud City…

Imperial garrison Vader left behind on Cloud City

…might this not suggest he had also left strict instructions for them to collect it (as he’d not likely want his old weapon to fall into the hands of a Jedi again), after which he passed it onto his own master, Darth Sidious?  And after the Emperor’s own death, one of his Imperial Dignitaries…

Imperial dignitary that remained behind on Coruscant

…who remained behind on Coruscant contacted Maz, as per Palpatine’s instructions in his last Will & Testament, for her to come to the Imperial Palace to retrieve it along with his treasure trove of Sith artifacts, including those shown decorating his chambers in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?

Recall here the Jedi Order forbade attachments, which would not only include emotional ties but attachment to physical objects also.  So an obsession with collecting artifacts would be frowned upon by the Jedi.  However, this wasn’t an issue for the Sith, who were renowned for their preoccupation with Force relics (much like Hitler’s known obsession with holy relics).  Now cast your mind back to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith where we were treated to numerous scenes of Palpatine’s collection of Sith artifacts on display in the Chancellor’s Suite, including…

Chancellor Palpatine's suite on Coruscant

…the bronzium statues of the Four Sages of Dwartii…

Four Sages of Dwartii

…and those retrieved from the archaeological excavation of Massassi territory on Yavin 4…

Massassi temple on Yavin IV

such as the Sith Chalice (a metallic incense burner used by the Sith during their initiation ceremonies) and…

Sith Chalice in Chancellor Palpatine's Suite

…the frieze depicting a battle between the Jedi and Sith during the Great Hyperspace War.

Great Hyperspace War bas-relief

Recall too that the location of the catacombs beneath Maz’s castle on Takodana, similar to the Sith shrine beneath the Imperial Palace…

emperor-throne-hadabbadon-art

…which the Emperor used as his private sanctum, are rumoured to have once been a battleground between the Jedi and the Sith.  So she perhaps had her castle erected over it to ensure she could get first dibs on any Sith relics left behind on the battlefield, which could go a long way to explaining her secret treasure room where Rey retrieved Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber (previously lost by Luke, along with his hand, when doing battle with Darth Vader on Cloud City) and which also included a mask that looked a lot like those worn by the Knights of Ren (along with robes seen sitting on the floor).

Postscript: Finally, in the new Tarkin novel…

Tarkin novel cover

…considered as canon by Disney, it is revealed that the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was constructed over a Sith shrine, and it was the dark side energies emanating from it that were clouding the Jedi’s vision the Prequel Trilogy. So if Maz Kanata’s castle was similarly built on an ancient Sith battleground wouldn’t it similarly cloud any Light Side visions? So wouldn’t that mean if Rey’s vision was so strong that it was influenced by the Dark Side? And when Maz says of the vision to Rey, “The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in”, isn’t it more likely it is the Dark Side of the Force that would let itself in? Now why would Maz, who displays an innate understanding of the Force, be suggesting to Rey that she “let it[the Dark Side] in” unless her claim that she is “no Jedi” is meant to subtly suggest that she is a Sith who would of course want an untrained Force-sensitive user to open themselves to it.

the origin of Longshot’s family?

Longshot title imageIn the 1985-1986 Longshot mini-series written by Ann Nocenti, Longshot was a genetically created human with the specific purpose of being Mojo’s slave-star in the entertainment business. Before escaping from Mojo’s dimension to Earth, Longshot had supposedly had a relationship with another of Mojo’s slave-stars, Spiral, who now hated him.

Subtle hints of Spiral being aware of a past with Longshot, but now hating him from Uncanny X-Men Annual #10

The mini-series ended with Longshot going back to Mojo’s dimension along with stuntwoman Ricochet Rita and Quark to rebel against Mojo’s slavery.

Limited Series end scene with Longshot going back to Mojo’s dimension along with Ricochet Rita and Quark to rebel against Mojo from Longshot #6

In Marvel Age Annual #3, 1987, a Longshot graphic novel by Ann Nocenti and Art Adams was announced: “Longshot will return to his home world where he will start a rebellion to free his people. All his nemeses from his Limited Series, including Mojo and Spiral, will counter-attack. Longshot will discover just how brutal a rebellion can be – and how merciless the forces bent on the rebellion’s destruction truly are.”

However, the graphic novel never appeared due to becoming editor of the X-Men and mutant books and Adams getting poached to illustrate other Marvel titles due to his quickly rising star.

To prevent the increasingly popular characters from her Limited Series getting irrevocably altered by other writers, Nocenti struck a deal with her primary writer, Chris Claremont. He would become their caretakers until such time as she could be freed up to return and write an ongoing Longshot series.

And so later that year came Uncanny X-Men Annual #10 written by Claremont and illustrated by Adams, where they revealed that the rebellion on Mojo World had failed, and Mojo subsequently sent Longshot to the X-Men on Earth as part of a plan to enslave them, too. The plan didn’t succeed, but Mojo decided to leave Longshot with the X-Men to annoy Spiral.

Mojo deciding to leave Longshot with the X-Men to annoy Spiral from Uncanny X-Men Annual #10

However, Longshot suffered from amnesia during his entire time with the X-Men and didn’t even recognise Ricochet Rita when he saw one of her movies in Uncanny X-Men #224 in 1987.

Longshot failing to recognise Ricochet Rita despite seeing one of her movies from Uncanny X-Men #224

In Uncanny X-Men Annual #12, 1988, it was revealed that Rita had become one of Mojo’s slaves…

Rita revealed to have become one of Mojo’s slaves from Uncanny X-Men Annual #12

…and she was next seen as guardian for Mojo’s X-Babies in the 1989 Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem special edition.

Ricochet Rita as guardian for Mojo's X-Babies from the Excalibur Mojo Mayhem special edition

Nocenti’s editorial duties ended later in 1988 so it was after the above special edition, when Adams was similarly freed up, that discussions resumed about the Longshot ongoing series. Plans progressed to the extent that Claremont wrote the character out of Uncanny X-Men to accommodate that.

Sadly, the series never came to fruition and Longshot fell into comic obscurity after Uncanny X-Men #248…

Longshot leaving the X-Men to discover his true identity from Uncanny X-Men #248

…not showing up again until the Scattershot event in 1992’s X-Annuals.

Chapter 3 of the 'Shattershot' event from X-Factor Annual #7

In X-Factor Annual #7, chapter 3 of that event, writer Fabian Nicieza revealed that Spiral was actually Ricochet Rita who had been transformed and sent back in time by Mojo.

Fabian Nicieza reveals that Spiral was actually Ricochet Rita who had been transformed and sent back in time by Mojo from X-Factor Annual #7

In September 2012, I conducted an email interview with Annie where she unsurprisingly explained that Ricochet Rita becoming Spiral was never her intention.

However, despite cajoling she chose to not disclose whom she intended Spiral to be.

So it’s still up in the air.

Or is it really?

Despite not revealing this in her interview after all these years, I am convinced Annie provided the required jigsaw puzzle pieces in her original Longshot six-issue Limited Series for readers to resolve.

Recall in issue #5 of the miniseries, Gog refers to Longshot having a wife.Gog refers to Longshot having a wife from issue #5 of his Limited Series

So if Mojo’s six-armed sorceress wasn’t meant to be Rita, was Spiral instead intended to have previously been Longshot’s wife Gog speaks of above?

There certainly were some subtle hints of Spiral being aware of a past with Longshot…

Hints of Spiral being aware of a past with Longshot from Longshot #6

…while he appeared completely clueless.

Flashback to Longshot having his mind wiped from Longshot #4Longshot was clueless about his earlier relationship with Spiral from Longshot #1

Mojo also made fun of Spiral’s feelings for Longshot.

Mojo often made fun of Spiral's feelings for Longshot, including here from Longshot #6

And Longshot himself realised there had been something going on between them in the past.

Longshot realising something had been going on between them in the past from Longshot #6

This would seem to suggest that Spiral was the lover/ wife to whom Gog referred, and that she too was part of the rebellion Longshot led against the Spineless Ones.

Flashback to the rebellion Longshot led against the Spineless Ones from Longshot #4

Then Mojo has her captured too, perhaps forcing his chief scientist Arize to genetically modify her as a twisted revenge against Longshot for leading the rebellion.

Spiral revealing Mojo was responsible for genetically modifying her so she would have six arms from Longshot #6

This leaves the question of what happened to Longshot’s children, what with Gog referring not only to his wife, but to “his children”.

Gog referring not only to Longshots wife, but to his children from Longshot #5

But again maybe not… maybe Annie provided readers with that piece of the puzzle too.

Recall in the limited series Annie further introduced Butch, Darla and Alfi in Longshot #4.

Butch, Darla and Alfi first introduced by Anne Nocenti in Longshot #4

Later, in New Mutants Annual #2, Mojo ages these three children and provides them with superpowers.

Mojo ageing Butch, Darla and Alfi and provides them with superpowers from New Mutants Annual #2

Butch was given power to telepathically cause strife… Butch with the power to telepathically cause strife from New Mutants Annual #2

…Darla was given the power to enchant through bright lights…

Darla with the power to enchant through bright lights from New Mutants Annual #2

…and Alfi great accuracy with weaponry!

Alfi with the power of great accuracy with weaponry from New Mutants Annual #2

These powers seem reflective of Spiral and Longshot’s own respective abilities.

So what if Butch, Darla and Alfi were Longshot’s children Gog spoke of above, and further to his sick revenge transforming their mother into Spiral, Mojo not only has them mind-wiped, but upon deciding to deposit them with a foster family in “Alphabet City” after he split their parents up…

Butch, Darla and Alfi's parents, who they were perhaps fostered out to by Mojo, from Longshot #4

…realises that he has to first come up with an alternate narrative for them. So the TV-obsessed despot has a little genetic tweaking done on them to make them resemble “The Little Rascals” (also known as “Our Gang”) Depression-era movie characters he learned of from Earth TV broadcasts.

The

Acknowledgements: Thanks go out to Reverend Meteor of Alvaro’s Comic Book Message Boards and Ricochet Rita for tracking down some hard to obtain images.