During the Mutant Massacre, the first X-Crossover (1986), without warning or apparent reason the Morlocks living in the abandoned subway tunnels below New York are slaughtered by the Marauders. For the remainder of Chris Claremont’s run we never learned the actual motivations for the massacre, the closest to answers readers obtain is during the actual crossover when Storm suggests that it is nothing less than a planned, deliberate attempt to wipe out Callisto’s people…
When Claremont was forced from the X-titles in the early 90s it became another of his many “dangling plots”. When later writers revealed Mr. Sinister as a former servant of Apocalypse, theories arose that his master had deemed the Morlocks as not strong enough to survive and previously programmed him to do it.
In the 10 years following Claremont’s original storyline, the Morlocks had been retconned into having been created by the Dark Beast, a refugee from the Age of Apocalypse crossover.
In Cable #28 it is inferred Mr. Sinister recognised the Morlocks as being based on his own genetically manipulative style, given Dark Beast learned genetics from his AoA counterpart, and annoyed by the unauthorised use of his theories, sends the Marauders to wipe them out.
However, wasn’t it a bit of a coincidence that the Morlock’s system led from their tunnels beneath Manhattan to Professor Xavier’s estate as stated by Colossus in Uncanny X-Men #243, p.19, and shown in New Mutants #90-91!?
Now flash forward to X-Men Forever (v1) #4, written by Fabian Nicieza that hints Mr. Sinister is responsible for muties!!… Threads picked up in this issue were seeded earlier by Nicieza in X-Men (v2) #12 where Professor X explains to Wolverine that his father, Brian Xavier, worked at Almagordo Nuclear Research Facility a front for mutant research (the later revealed government-backed Black Womb Program)…
…along with fellow scientist Kurt Marko, father of the Juggernaut who went on to marry Sharon Xavier after Charles’s father died in a supposed accident at Almagordo.
So there’s the thread to start my fix.
That is, I would reveal that Brian Xavier’s death during his work at the research station, Almagordo, was not only an accident and connected with his smuggling some of Sinister’s REJECTS (i.e. the first Morlocks) out of there in order to prevent their deaths.
But where would he safely hide them from Sinister?
What if the network of tunnels beneath NYC revealed to have been constructed in the 1950s by the United States government for it and the military’s use, but later abandoned, was a cover story? Did Brian Xavier use his government and military connections to construct these tunnels, extending to beneath his mansion, thus providing Sinister’s REJECTS with a community where their distorted physical appearances would be hidden away from humankind’s prejudice?
It also perhaps provided Xavier with a surreptitious means to get food, water, shelter and medicine to them.
Did the Xavier legacy for mutant rights therefore not begin with Charles, but instead with his father Brian?
I would posit that Brian’s efforts are eventually discovered by Kurt Marko who, fearing he would go to jail for his part in the Black Womb Program, kills him and makes it look like an accident.
Brian’s untimely death prevents him from ever revealing the truth to Charles, and so the community is left to fend for itself and goes on to fall under the leadership of Callisto.
I would posit though that just prior to his death, however, Xavier manages to get word to people within the U.S. government sympathetic to the rights of mutants about Sinister’s experiments within the Black Womb Program.
In the meantime, Marko reports what he has done to Sinister. Not wanting the full extent of his activities made public until his plans were fully formulated, Sinister moved his base off American soil.
He reopens shop in Genosha, a nation sympathetic with his eugenic goals. They give him a free hand to continue his research, as long as the fruits of his labour provide their nation with significant economic benefit.
Sinister exceeds even his wildest expectations, achieving both goals in the one action.
You ask why I reveal Sinister as the mastermind behind the slave nation! While any true X-Fan shouldn’t even be asking why I would retcon the grotesque oaf Sugar Man as the mysterious force behind Genosha, they should recall how X-Men: Prime, refers to Mister Edgerton (Genosha’s oldest and first recorded mutate) as the original Morlock (so yes I’m retconning AoA refugees Sugar Man and Dark Beast as the masterminds behind Genosha and the Morlocks respectively, and would instead reveal that McCoy only tampered with the Morlocks who became Gene Nation and took credit for their wider creation to establish his reputation as a villainous manipulator on par with the sinister vivisector).
And so Sinister was, at first, tasked with finding the illegitimate daughter of one Lord Kelly (another recurring name) who was living in the “white ghettoes”… but even in the cesspool that was Victorian-era London too many missing people tended to draw unwanted attention, as became the case with those Whitechapel prostitutes. That is after subjecting four of them to Sinister’s tests, the Club and the aristocracy, fearing not only that this would lead back to them, but also fearful of what would occur had certain physical powers gotten into the genetic code of society’s lowest members, the prostitutes were executed.
The Club, still desperate for genetically gifted bloodlines, facilitate a process whereby Sinister can continue to satisfy his need for genetically anomalous test subjects, and reward him with the position of doctor for London’s upper class.
And so he finds a surprisingly flourishing trade as an obstetrician, and one patient in particular proves to be most helpful – the young woman by the name of Amanda Mueller.
In exchange for helping her deal with the unwanted products of her… extramarital activities, she allows Sinister to keep her… unwanted offspring. Unfortunately, the arrangement is outed by a London gossip columnist, and becomes known as the “Black Womb murders.”
He helps Amanda vanish, and she becomes his most productive source of genetic material in the coming decades.
After he helps Amanda hide from the London authorities, the Club decides it is time for them to take their show on the road, so to speak.
It was a time of great scientific curiosity on the other side of the pond, so the Club decide that the land of opportunity will be a wonderful place for Sinister to continue his work. The melting pot will not let them down…
During this time he founds his Nebraska base, among others.
He decides that he should try and gather widespread information on the genetic diversity of American mutants. But how to do so without causing a stir? And then he realises the perfect means: The US government is looking for anything that might help them advance their power on a global scale.
World War One is a terrible time, but it also provides him an opportunity to approach certain fellow members of the scientific community. It also allows him an opening into their uppermost circles of power.
He uses this persona as he accesses the American branch of the Hellfire Club to seek government funding for what he claims is eugenics work. It isn’t that far off the mark, and is actually welcomed by the foolishly bigoted WASP power structure. What he is able to found is no less than Operation: Black Womb.
The project is simple: He will give the US government tidbits of the promise of genetic engineering, and they will give him near-unlimited funding and access to less-than-desirable castoffs of society…
They are eager to do so! The mentally ill, racially-undesirable prisoners – prisoners of all kinds, actually – the disabled … Black Womb hardly discriminates. He also is able to channel genetic data taken from socially acceptable people, culled from doctors’ offices across the country.
The program begins in 1927, or at least the first phase. Brian Xavier is assigned to work with him to examine the effects of radiation on successive generations of humans. Sinister, of course, already knows the potential such mutagenic energy could have … but when Brian volunteers Charles’ pregnant mother for an ‘accidental’ exposure, Sinister is willing to oblige.
Charles and Cassandra are the first product of Black Womb research. Sharon evidently miscarries Cassandra, but Sinister takes the still-living sister and places her with one of the foster families in his network – people he had indebted to himself through various means.
Brian is initially terrified of the potential of mutants. That was part of the reason he wanted his children to be mutants – he hopes that Charles will be defence against rogue mutations. The irony really is delicious.
Around the same time, Sinister is asked to make his initial findings of mutagenetic advancement available to certain doctors involved in a very hush-hush project. When Captain America first appears, he knows that his work has finally borne fruit.
So Sinister is tangentially involved in the Super-Soldier Program. The doctors involved take mere theory and make it living, breathing flesh. I wonder if the good Captain would see it that way … but again, I get off the track.
Black Womb funding becomes scarce as the war effort ramps up. Sinister is reassigned to OSS work. The Americans are worried that the Germans will use concentration camp prisoners in genetic testing, and possibly have breakthroughs on the scale of the Super-Soldier Program. So, with the cooperation that always existed between the secret government of the United States and the Nazi government of Germany (lead by sympathetic secret societies via such aristocrats as Zemo and Strucker), he becomes a scientist in the camps, conducting his own highly secret scientific experiments … and making his own breakthroughs.
He is far more merciful to his… subjects … than many of the so-called ‘doctors’ in those hellholes. He is the one who kills and replaces a certain German officer in Poland, and he transfers a young Jewish lad who was demonstrating unusual control over metals.
You see, he could tell that Magnus was something special. If he could have, Sinister would have gotten him out of Auschwitz far sooner, but those damned Nazis were too attentive. To him, the entire Holocaust was a sickening waste of potential.
After he leaves Germany, just as Berlin is falling, he loses track of Magnus… still wondering what might have been. In any case, he returns to America in late 1945, and finds Kurt Marko and Amanda Mueller still running Black Womb.
The government has become quite aware of the potential of superhuman mutation, after witnessing the Invaders in action. The Super-Soldier Program becomes its own project, spinning off into the hands of eventually-deranged madmen, but Black Womb is permitted a certain degree of autonomy.
Thanks to the precognitive advice of a certain British emigre’ whom Sinister had targeted as a “genetic aberration,” they are able to isolate the foundations of several remarkable bloodlines. Part of that, of course, is for his own pet projects – he never took his eye off of Scott’s family – but he is gratified to be able to trace the Grey, Drake, McCoy, Worthington, and even Munroe bloodlines…
Only Storm’s father, that is. Sinister regrets that he does not have time to diversify his analysis systems to a global reach. This would not come until after a series of catastrophes begin to spell death-knells for Black Womb.
The first is the passing of Kurt Marko. Amanda and Sinister, being British emigres, are considered to be risky, at best, by their “black-budget” overseers. Also, they have a lack of tangible achievements following World War Two. The occasional breeding success, masked as a “miscarriage,” tends to be a low-powered mutant here or there, with a couple of exceptions – who have to be given to foster families because of security concerns.
The second is, sadly, Watson and Crick. When their independent work into the genome becomes public, it becomes fashionable for government moneys to go towards “legitimate” genetic research – never mind the fact that Sinister is already 50 years ahead of those showboats.
The third is the Red Scare. It’s difficult to recruit top scientific researchers when they’re being terrorised by obsessive right-wing paranoiacs. Also, military funding, which had been the foundation of Black Womb’s financial support, is being shifted towards other biological research programmes.
Postscript: Did Apocalypse, perhaps onto Sinister’s scheme to betray him, secretly manipulate Brian Xavier at the Black Womb project, to smuggle its “Rejects” into the tunnels beneath Manhattan (?another of his abandoned bases?)?
But to what end?
To answer this question I cast my mind back to how, after the Great Cataclysm, the Deviant priesthood was determined to destroy the Celestials for obliterating so much of their race and civilisation. Hence, the priesthood assumed a new function. At times designated as “Purity Time,” the priests would attempt to weed out those Deviants who were born with the most extreme and grotesque genetic differences from the others by publicly condemning them to death in the fire pits.
Through this measure the priests asserted that they hoped to keep variation within the Deviant race’s genetic makeup within certain limits.
However, in actuality, the priests did not kill the Deviants they supposedly condemned to death at Purity Time.
Instead, the priests secretly placed them in a form of suspended animation called “cold-sleep.” Moreover, the priests used technological means to wipe the sleepers’ brains clean of their original personalities and to indoctrinate them to obey the priests unquestioningly when they finally awoke. Through this means the priests built what they hoped would be an army, loyal to them alone, with which they would one day challenge the Celestials. Over the millennia the priests’ sleeping army grew to number in the thousands.
Could this not, in effect, be what Apocalypse was up to!
Recall how Caliban the Morlock became his “First Hound” (from Rob Liefeld interview by Cliff Biggers, Comic Shop News #142, 13th of April 1990) and would usher in the bleak apocalyptic future shown in the iconic Days of Future Past!?
Did Apocalypse use Brian to supposedly condemn Sinister’s Rejects, whilst in reality he manipulated Xavier to move them to a safe place where he could use them later to shape his “Hounds” from and build a mutant army? This is even more chilling, when one thinks that Apocalypse intended, like the Deviant priesthood, to challenge the Space Gods themselves, so was this the purpose of his planned mutant army? Had the technology he had pillaged in the Celestial Ship been left behind by the Dreaming Celestial, and this is where Apocalypse stole his idea from? I wonder if Cerebro’s failure to detect the existence of hundreds of mutants underneath New York City for so many years, yet being able to detect a single mutant presence half a world away, was intentional in its design! Did Brian have a hand in its initial design, and accounted for this as directed by Apocalypse?
Did Sinister then discover Apocalypse’s plan to use these Rejects to recruit his Hounds from, and upon doing so ordered the Massacre enacted by the Marauders. Perhaps Sinister also found out about Brian’s treachery, and convinced Marko to punish him for his betrayal. But Marko performed his assigned task too well, and killed Brian before managing to extract the information of where Xavier had hidden the Rejects. Is this why it took so long for Sinister to initiate the Massacre?
To read more of my theories about his long-term plans check out …Apocalypse’s Twelve plot?
A very big thank you goes out to fnord12 for his invaluable assistance compiling the obscure scans for this post. Fnord has taken on the nightmarish project of trying to physically assemble every Marvel comic and then write reviews/ breakdowns of them in chronological order at the Marvel Comics Chronology, and is a far far better man than I to wade into such murky waters.
Filed under: Claremont's X-Men | Tagged: "Black Womb murders", "Nathan Milbury", "Purity Time", Age of Apocalypse, Alexander Ryking, Alley, Almagordo, Almagordo Nuclear Research Facility, Amanda Mueller, Apocalypse, Auschwitz, Black Womb Program, Black Womb Project, Bobby Drake, Braddock, Brian Xavier, Cain Marko, Caliban, Captain America, Carter Ryking, Cassandra Nova, Celestial Ship, Celestials, Charles Xavier, Chris Claremont, Cyclops, Dark Beast, Deviant priesthood, Dreaming Celestial, Eternals, Falsworth, First Hound, First Morlock, Genosha, Ghaur, Graymalkin Lane, Great Cataclysm, Hank McCoy, Hellfire Club, Henry McCoy, Holocaust, Jack the Ripper, Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, Jean Grey, Juggernaut, Kelly, Kurt Marko, London Hellfire Club, Magneto, Magnus, Marauders, Marrow, Mary Kelly, Mister Edgerton, Morlock Massacre, Morlock tunnels, Morlocks, Mr. Sinister, Mutant Massacre, Mutate, Mutate Process, Nazis, Ororo Munroe, Professor X, retcon, Romanov, royal physician, Scott Summers, Sharon Xavier, Sonderkommando, Space Gods, Stephen Knight, Strucker, Super-Soldier Program, Warren Worthington, Whitechapel, X-Men #12, X-Men Prime, Zemo | 12 Comments »