Today’s post is fnord12’s, of the Marvel Comics Chronology project. This time around, he has decided to unpick the fixes for the Beyonder’s origin, and the character’s connection to the Molecule Man, thereby weaving a logical rat’s nest into a wearable garment. So over to fnord12.
Ok, ok, put the pitchforks down. I know no one wants to hear any more about the Beyonder ever again. I know we all hated Secret Wars II, and that’s fair enough. I’m right there with you. But, you have to admit the ending of Secret Wars II was pretty good. The Beyonder, we had learned, was once a universe unto himself. After he spent the series thrashing about in our universe in various ill-advised ways, the Beyonder decided to return to the void of his previous existence. He would forego his consciousness and become a new universe – perhaps even a New Universe. And that’s pretty cool. Whether you see Secret Wars II as a metaphor for Jim Shooter thrashing about and disrupting the status quo in the Marvel offices, or just a cosmic storyline full of admittedly goofy moments, the ending has a nice sense of closure. It’s a shame it got ruined when the Beyonder was brought back and “fixed” in a really weird way – actually, in two really weird ways. And that’s what I’m hoping to get at with this piece: a way to unfix the fixes with my own fix.
But before we get to that, a more esoteric and personal bugaboo of mine: the handling of Molecule Man in the 1970s. Molecule Man first appeared in Fantastic Four #20 as a nerdy dweeb who suddenly had vast power and was immediately corrupted by it. This triggered the Watcher to break his personal vow to never interfere (we know it doesn’t take much) and alert the Fantastic Four. Then, the Watcher spirits him away in the end. That was Molecule Man’s only Silver Age appearance.
Then, in the 1970s, things got weird. Steve Gerber brought the character back in the first issue of Marvel Two-In-One, but it wasn’t really him. It was Molecule Man’s son, which he somehow produced in the isolated dimension where the Watcher had trapped him. When his “son” comes back to Earth, he’s a much more generic villain in terms of personality. He loses his body and instead possesses whoever holds his wand. The resurrection as his son was also supposed to eliminate his inability to affect organic molecules. But, that starts creeping back in later stories, beginning with an inability to affect unstable molecules. Along the way, he also seems to become his original self again, dropping the idea that he was actually Molecule Man’s son.
Then, in the early 80s, Jim Shooter brought back Molecule Man as the original Silver Age version. Molecule Man re-grew a body for himself, ditched the wand, and went back to his old nebbish self that we all know and love from the first Secret Wars. (I don’t care what anyone says. The first Secret Wars was a fun story, and Molecule Man’s interaction with the Beyonder was one of the best parts of the second series.) Molecule Man even regained his inability to affect organic materials. The Shooter story in Avengers #215-216 gave a quick hand-waving explanation about the wand possessions, but offered no explanation for the son thing or the reversal of his power limitation. That always bugged me. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe says something about the son being a construct he created to serve as a companion, but I never liked that. Molecule Man was never shown to be able to create something with a consciousness. It seems like a step too far even for his godlike powers.
Now, back to the Beyonder. Apparently, Ralph Macchio disliked the Beyonder so much that even though the character was done/finished/caput/off being another universe where he would never bother us again, he ordered Steve Englehart to bring him back just so he could do away with him again. Fantastic Four #318-319 showed the Beyonder merging with Molecule Man so they could become a cosmic cube. Just typing that makes my brain hurt. Of course, this “fix” actually had the opposite of Macchio’s intended result. Molecule Man eventually disentangled himself from the Beyonder, or Kosmos or whatever we have to call it, and went back to his usual routine. Now, instead of having a nice finite ending, the Beyonder is free to menace the Marvel universe (and us!) without notice, as s/he did in the 2003 Thanos series.
Then, we have the second, most recent, “fix” from the New Avengers Illuminati series by Brian Michael Bendis. The nearly incomprehensible third issue suggested the Beyonder was a mutant Inhuman all along. It also implied that all of Secret Wars II was just an illusion played out on an unpopulated moon out in space. It seems unlikely, considering the number of actual developments that came out of Secret Wars II, like the first appearance of Boom Boom and the curing of Rick Jones’ cancer. How could it in any way jibe with the Kosmos story? Bendis has said that he kept the story deliberately vague, so that we could interpret it however we want. I am now exercising my option to do that in a way that a) preserves the original ending of Secret Wars II while b) compartmentalizing the two Beyonder “fixes” so that we can blissfully ignore them both at once, and c) addressing my personal problem with the long forgotten weirdness of the 1970s Molecule Man. So, here we go!
What if there was a mutant Inhuman? Let’s call him Kosmogar Beyondagon. (That’s a Blackagar Boltagon reference, people! Look it up!) Kosmogar, although incredibly powerful thanks to the mind-blowing awesomeness of his mutant Inhumanism, might lack and covet a corporeal form of his own. He would sense Molecule Man and secretly break into the dimensional prison where the Watcher was keeping him. He would possess the lifeless construct of a “son” that Molecule Man created and then start manipulating the guy. Eventually, Kosmogar would use their combined powers to escape, but trap Molecule Man in the wand.
Throughout the 1970s, then, we really saw Kosmogar. That’s why he possesses various bodies, and why his powers are inconsistent. Eventually, though, Molecule Man subconsciously asserts himself enough to expel Kosmogar. From Shooter’s Avengers through the two Secret Wars series, we have the “regular” Molecule Man again. But, we do see Kosmogar separately at this time, taunting the Illuminati and priming them to think the worst of the Beyonder. Kosmogar plans to swoop in and steal the Beyonder’s power at the right moment, something he fails to do behind the scenes in the final issue of Secret Wars II.
We could tell a whole behind-the-scenes story from Kosmogar’s point of view where we get to relive a fairly chaotic battle devoid of character moments in that issue. This story could deliver bonus fixes, like explaining why Cyclops didn’t recognize Rachel Summers using the Phoenix Force at a time when he didn’t know she was his alternate future daughter. It could explain some of the minor errors in character appearances, like the roster of Alpha Flight that appears in that issue, while also telling the story of how Kosmogar failed to steal the Beyonder’s power. We can also use the bodiless Kosmogar during the early 1980s period for other fixes as well, like explaining The Thing #3 where Lockjaw talked. The other Inhumans seemed convinced he was a real person and not a dog, but Peter David’s reversal of that had some inherent contradictions. Kosmogar wouldn’t want to risk the emergence of another mutant Inhuman, so he possesses Lockjaw long enough to make him talk and discourage Quicksilver from exposing Luna to the Terrigen Mists, and then puts it into the Inhumans’ heads that it was all just a practical joke.
After Secret Wars II is over, Kosmogar starts manipulating Kubik and the other cosmic entities. He gets them to think he is the Beyonder and force him to merge with Molecule Man again – which is what he actually wants. When Molecule Man disentangles himself, Kosmogar goes on to appear in the short-lived Thanos series, where he’s put into a coma (Thanos #10).
This fix keeps the real Beyonder safely away from all of the post-Secret Wars II nonsense, allowing him to have retired in peace never to be used again. Plus, it provides an explanation for the changes to the Molecule Man. If we were doing all of this in some actual comics, we could frame it around a Secret Wars III. Don’t groan! We could have all of our various sentient cosmic cubes – Kubik, the Shaper of Worlds, and, yes, the Kosmos/Beyonder – each pitting a faction of heroes and/or villains against each other for the purposes of some cosmic contest set up by the Grandmaster. Keeping it not too complex leaves room to work in all our changes. It starts to come out during the course of the story that the head of the third faction isn’t really the Beyonder. He is really Kosmos, or rather our Kosmogar.
What does Kosmogar want? What was all that possession of the Molecule Man and his various machinations for? Well, that’s what Secret Wars III can be about, interspersed with some classic Secret Wars-style slugfests. We can flash back to his birth and childhood and exposure to the Terrigen Mists, seeing how he first gained his powers but also lost his corporeal form. For all his vast power, he’s been unable to create permanent body for himself. The “son” created by the Molecule Man got burned out by his energies, and he had to release all the other forms he possessed or they would have burnt out too. In order to form a permanent body, he needs truly cosmic power. The real Beyonder could have created one for him, but Kosmogar failed in that attempt. Now he needs to win the Grandmaster’s contest. But, why does he want a body? Again we go back to his childhood to find a very simple and human reason: a boy that could never receive a hug from his parents, a kiss from his girlfriend, or even pet his Lockjaw puppy. Over the years in his quest for power his mind has become more twisted, and he’s forgotten the reason for his quest. But with this, we can resolve the character arc for Kosmogar without him ever succeeding in gaining a body, as our heroes delve into his psyche and learn that, deep inside, he’s just a little boy that needed a hug.
Filed under: Fantastic Four, Guest Posts, Marvel's Avengers, Uncategorized | Tagged: "unstable molecules", Beyonder, Black Bolt, Blackagar Boltagon, Brian Bendis, Cosmic Cube, Illuminati, Inhumans, Jim Shooter, Kosmos, Kubik, Lockjaw, Molecule Man, mutant, New Avengers, New Universe, Peter David, Ralph Macchio, Secret Wars, Secret Wars II, Steve Englehart, Steve Gerber, Terrigen Mist, Thanos, The Thing, Watcher, X-Men |