Mister Sinister’s origin?

Mister Sinister debuted in the title Uncanny X-Men, first being briefly mentioned by Sabretooth during the Mutant Massacre crossover as the leader of the Marauders who had sent them to slaughter the Morlock population.

Figure 01_UX212_MrSinister

In the following issue, the X-Men member Psylocke picks up a shadowy mental image of the Marauders’ “Master” from Sabretooth’s mind.

Figure 02_UX213_Flashback

Mister Sinister finally appeared on-panel in issue #221.

Figure 03_UX221_Sinister1stappearance1

The character plays a major role in the Inferno crossover, where it is revealed that Sinister cloned Madelyne Pryor from Jean Grey for the purpose of having her conceive a child with Cyclops, their son Nathan; Sinister also reveals to have manipulated Cyclops’ life since early childhood. After a battle with the X-Men and X-Factor, the villain is apparently destroyed by Cyclops’ optic beam.

Figure 04_XF39_Mister Sinister dies

Months after Mister Sinister’s apparent death, Claremont pens Classic X-Men #41–42 (December, 1989) detailing the role he played in Cyclops’ life at the orphanage in Nebraska where Scott was raised.

Figure 05_CXM41-2

The story features a boy named Nathan who is obsessively fixated on Cyclops…

Figure 06_CXM41

…and whom Claremont intended to actually be Mister Sinister.

Sadly though Claremont was removed from his beloved X-titles before he could firmly establish his above planned origin; and future writers would go on to reveal Mister Sinister as a Victorian era geneticist obsessed with evolution named Nathaniel Essex who made a pact with the ancient mutant Apocalypse, leading to his signature look and longevity…

Figure 07a_FACP03Figure 07b_FACP04

…that eventually turned sour, prompting him to work behind the scenes where he manipulated the creation of Cyclops’ son Nathan (who became the time-travelling soldier Cable) to destroy Apocalypse.

A further layer to this origin was added in recent years where we discover the reason he made his initial pact with Apocalypse was to gain knowledge which would enable him to merge with the Dreaming Celestial and use its power to turn hundreds of thousands of people into doppelgangers of himself as part of a plan to bring about “Alpha Day” early whereby the Celestials would return to Earth, eradicate all life, leaving only his perfect clone-race to rebuild the planet and become its dominant species.

Figure 08a_UXM02Figure 08b_UXM02Figure 08c_UXM02

And fans had the audacity to accuse Claremont’s initially proposed origin as complicated!?

Okay, so let’s go back and delve a little further into Chris Claremont plans for the character.

In 1995, in interview with Tue Sǿrensen and Ulrik Kristiansen for Seriejournalen.dk Claremont reveals:

“Scott’s boyhood friend (Nathan) in the orphanage was an eight-year old kid he’s always been an eight-year old kid. He ages one year for every 10 of everybody else. So, he’s a 50-year old guy in a 10-year old’s body and boy, is he pissed! That’s why he works with clones. It’s the only way he can deal with the adult world because he is not gonna be an adult for another 50 years, at the earliest! And that’s why he takes a long view of things because he’s going to be around for a 1000 years give or take a few at least!”

So he conceived Mister Sinister as a new villain for the X-Men, after feeling “tired of just going back to Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the same old same old”, further recalling in an interview on Comixfan.com:

“Dave Cockrum and I were over ideas and what we were coming towards was a mysterious young boy – apparently an 11-year-old – at the orphanage where Scott (Cyclops) was raised, who turned out to be the secret master of the place.

Figure 09a_CXM41

In effect what we were setting up was a guy who was aging over a lifespan of roughly a thousand years. Even though he looked like an 11-year-old, he’d actually been alive since the mid-century at this point – he was actually about 50 […] He had all the grown up urges. He’s growing up in his mind but his body isn’t capable of handling it, which makes him quite cranky. And, of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who’d take him seriously in the criminal community? […] So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mister Sinister, that was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister’s rather – for want of a better word – childish or kid-like appearance. The costume… the look… the face… it’s what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn’t what you’d expect in a guy like that.”

Figure 09b_CXM 041

While this addresses his origin for the child-like mutant (Nathan) who is obsessed with Scott, he is appropriately vague in the abovementioned Classic X-Men story with regard to Mister Sinister, such that nothing presented in those issues appeared to get contradicted too much by how later writers went on to develop him.

Or so it would seem at a cursory glance!

But I would posit that while these issues on first glance provide no scenes that directly suggest just what Claremont’s original intent for Mister Sinister was, when considered with scenes he had seeded outside of this particular story the hints have been RIGHT THERE… and yet none of us saw it, but how in the hell could we have MISSED it?

So now it’s just a matter of working out how, if Claremont had remained, his planned origin for Mister Sinister might have played out in-story?

Well we know from Claremont’s interviews young Nate had been secretly running the Nebraskan orphanage for years, and was responsible for Scott being transferred there…

Figure 10b_XFAC39

…after his parents were abducted by D’Ken (though why he let Alex be adopted out is a mystery to this day).

Figure 10a_CXM41

In the Comixfan.com interview above Claremont recalls that young Nate “built himself an agent… which was Mister Sinister” as a way to convince the criminal community to take him seriously…

Figure 11_XMF07

…since despite his being 50 years of age he knew they wouldn’t take orders from somebody in the body of an 11-year old.

With this in mind young Nate had to ensure his agent for interacting with criminals/ supervillains was someone that scared the willies out them.

So Mister Sinister’s presence had to be damn creepy, something perfectly achieved by the alabaster skin, jagged teeth and “Uncanny valley”/ “Frank-N-Furter” get-up!

As for an appropriate name, he chose one with the gravitas of Doctor Doom!

And a form that could physically intimidate even villains like Sabretooth.

Figure 12_UXM221_Mr. Sinister

But how!

Well Claremont’s X-Men Forever #7 furthers the earlier hint that young Nate “built” Mister Sinister, showing the supervillain’s body among a group stored away that had been constructed from synthetic materials.

Figure 13_XMF01-03Figure 11_XMF07

This pretty blatantly suggests Claremont intended Mister Sinister to be an android that young Nate had built.

In addition the placement of the red gem on Mister Sinister’s forehead/ sternum seems further inspired by the design of Marvel’s most famous android, the Avenger called Vision whose solar jewel – on his forehead – provided him with the power required to function and manifest a range of energy powers.

Figure 14_A102_Vision

A further clue to Mister Sinister being an android occurs during Claremont’s original run in Uncanny X-Men #241 when Madelyne Pryor, in her guise as the Goblyn Queen, demands Jean Grey’s demonically transformed parents bring her his heart, and he boasts that, regrettably, he has no heart. While most would read this to be the boastful claim of a cackling supervillain, I’d suggest in Claremont’s case it was an extremely subtle, veiled reference to the fact he intended him to be a synthezoid, and not an enhanced human.

Figure 15_UXM241

But hold on a minute, Mister Sinister demonstrated a range what appeared to be psionic powers, including the ability to a) take instant control of the minds of other persons, b) establish mental blocks in the minds of others thereby preventing them from striking against him, and c) to project his mind onto the astral plane!

Well yes he did and I’ll get to this further below, but first recall that at the time Claremont introduced Scott’s boyhood friend (Nathan) in the orphanage, mutants only had a primary mutation, not a secondary unrelated mutation, and psionics do not have a connection to retarded ageing which was obviously the mutant ability Claremont intended for young Nate. And there is evidence to suggest a range of Mister Sinister’s superhuman abilities are derived from other sources. For instance, in X-Factor #39 Louise Simonson maintains Claremont’s idea by having Mister Sinister admit that the job of controlling Scott’s powers in the orphanage were “technically difficult”.

Figure 16_XFA039

This may suggest his ability to take control of other minds is not derived from his mutancy.

So what if the ruby gem worn by the “Mister Sinister” android does not absorb solar energy to provide the needed power for him to function like the Vision (he lived in the secret high-tech catacombs of the Nebraskan orphanage which was closed off from outside sunlight), but instead absorbed psionic energy from mutants within his vicinity?! Was this perhaps the real reason behind young Nate being intent on keeping Scott around? That is, as Scott’s ability developed young Nate finally had a powerful enough mutant around to fuel the jewel on his android. So did young Nate need Scott in the same way Ahmet Abdol needed his brother Alex?

Figure 17_MTU69

And did he create the Ruby Quartz glasses because he couldn’t have Scott expelling and wasting all that energy; the ruby quartz keeping it contained so young Nate could then absorb it!? Might this then suggest the gem was also composed of ruby quartz!?

I’ll come to this further down, but first…

Once Scott fled the orphanage, young Nate would need to find a replacement if he were to continue in his guise of Mister Sinister so perhaps expanded its operations to begin procuring mutant babies (between Classic X-Men #41-42 to X-Factor #35 operations had certainly scaled up)…

Figure 18_XFAC35_Pods

…all the while intent on getting Scott’s powers back somehow.

So does he continue his development of synthezoids, using them, along with clones, to conduct his activities in the “adult world”; including procuring Jean’s DNA to create Madelyne Pryor, a “brood mare” who would conceive a child with Scott that he could then have transferred to the orphanage to become a substitute to energise his gem given he was likely to never get Professor X’s golden boy back!? He then manipulates the formation of the Marauders to abduct the child and return it to him at the orphanage. However, knowing the infant’s powers won’t fully manifest for some time, (which he’s not overly impatient about as shown in Uncanny X-Men #239 when as baby Nate floats in his stasis chamber he declares that “time, as always, is on my side” given his retarded aging)…

Figure 19_UXM239

…so he uses Malice in the interim, a mutant of pure psionic energy. But while Malice is disembodied her energy is dispersed, the same problem he faced with Scott’s release of optic blasts. So he convinces her that she requires a host, manipulating her to bond with Lorna Dane, her psionic energy thereby contained and his gem then able to absorb the required amount.

Figure 20_UXM239

So now the question left is where young Nate procures the “Ruby Gem” that powers his Mister Sinister android?

To determine this, I would posit that we need to look back at just what abilities the gem powering Mister Sinister could be enabling him to manifest.

And so I return again to Uncanny X-Men #241 which not only hints that Mister Sinister is a sythezoid, but perhaps also the origin of where his wide range of other superhuman abilities might be derived from. When Madelyne calls him “devil”, he replies “The devil perhaps I am” and while again this could be read as the boastful claim of a cackling supervillain, after he further boasts to Madelyne that he has no heart, he also states that neither is he about to be bested in his own “sanctum sanctorum”.

Figure 15_UXM241

I would posit that when Mister Sinister refers to his secret base as his “sanctum sanctorum”, Claremont is dropping a huge hint. That is, in the Marvel Universe this term only tends to be used by sorcerers when referring to the base from which they conduct their mystical activities (e.g. Doctor Strange in Strange Tales #125, Baron Mordo in Strange Tales #132 and even Claremont’s very own Illyana Rasputin in New Mutants #44).

Figure 21a_Strange Tales 116, 125,132Figure 21b_NM44

This all appears to be driving the point home that young Nate is akin to another of Claremont’s mutant villains, Selene. Recall Selene was shown over time to be not only a mutant but a powerful sorceress possessing a wide range of superhuman abilities (the extent of which are outlined by Claremont in the scenes below), it never being clearly defined which of these was her mutant ability and which were skills derived from magic or other sources.

Figure 22a_NM10Figure 22b_UXM184Figure 22c_UXM184Figure 22d_UXM184Figure 22e_UXM189Figure 22f_UXM189Figure 22g_UXM189Figure 22h_UXM190Figure 22i_UXM190Figure 22j_UXM191Figure 22k_UXM208Figure 22l_F4ANN1999Figure 22m_UXM454

I’d therefore suggest this was the same for young Nate, who possessed the genetic mutation of retarded aging, while the wide range of superhuman abilities Mister Sinister showed were skills derived from the ruby gem he wore. And the ruby gem powering young Nate’s “Mister Sinister” android enabled him to access a range of mystical abilities.

As further evidence of this, Uncanny X-Men #241 provides even more hints. That is, in this issue Mister Sinister casts energy at Madelyne which results in her being bound by chains around her legs, arms, waist and neck, and engulfed in flames. He tells her that her struggle is useless, explaining that his defensive systems simply turns her energy back on her, using them to bind her all the more tightly. Even her ally, the demon N’astirh abandons her and teleports himself to safety when he sees Mister Sinister begin cutting loose with his powers.

Figure 23_UXM241

The only reason a demon of N’astirh’s level would flee would surely be because he realised he was in the presence of a sorcerer more powerful than himself.

But aren’t mystical villains left to the mystical corners of the Marvel Universe (i.e. Doctor Strange) and not the X-titles you ask!

Well, leaving aside the Margali Szardos, Belasco, Kulan Gath, Selene and the Adversary, there is precedent as far back Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s X-Men #12 which introduced Cain Marko who became transformed into Juggernaut, the human avatar of the mystical entity/ demon Cyttorak, by the Ruby Gem of Cyttorak which empowered him with the power of the crimson bands of Cyttorak.

Figure 24_UXM12

Juggernaut was always an odd concept to introduce into a title about mutants, what with his creator, Cyttorak, being a character more at home in the corner of Doctor Strange. However, I always wondered whether there might have been a plan by Kirby to reveal Cyttorak as somehow connected to the mutant world; after all he did provide Cain with a “psionic helmet” capable of protecting him from any telepathic attack!?

Figure 25_UXM13

I once theorised back in the 1980s that Cyttorak had recognised the psionic potential of Charles and lured him inside the ancient temple to transform him into his avatar on Earth, but Cain’s bullying bravado prevented this occurring. However, I have since become attached to the alternative idea that Cyttorak foresaw that one day Charles Xavier would become a threat to the mystic dimensions and Juggernaut was created as a protocol against mutant psionic threats! I mean how coincidental is it that his step-brother gets turned into an avatar able to withstand “psionic” power, the very foundation of Charles’s abilities?! Could this mean it would have been revealed there had been previous Juggernauts that had the specific purpose of putting down psionic threats throughout Earth’s history? But no you say, not during the Lee & Kirby run, since Charles seemed to believe mutant powers were caused by all the radiation their parents had been exposed to at the nuclear research centre before he was born (cf. Uncanny X-Men #12)…

Figure 26a_UXM12

…and Beast had a similar theory when he explained his father was an ordinary labourer at an atomic project (cf. Uncanny X-Men #15).

Figure 26b_UXM12

However, was that meant to be the bland origin but as time went on it would be revealed that mutant powers had a much greater history, one that would lead to a huge destiny in the MU (akin to that hinted at by Claremont in Uncanny X-Men Annual #11)?

Figure 27_UXN Annual 11

Could the introduction of Juggernaut have been intended as the first major hint that put into question the Atomic Age as behind the origin of mutant powers? Recall just the issue before the Stranger appears on Earth to study mutants saying his people are greatly interested in their emergence. This issue it is also revealed that there are mutants on other planets; and whereas the Collector has a wider-brief for his collection obsession, the Stranger says his people primarily focus their interest on collecting mutants from planet to planet.

Figure 28_UXM11

Yet we’ve not really had mutants introduced from other worlds in the MU (except perhaps Warlock from the Technarch). So could the Stranger’s introduction have been the start of an eventual story to reveal a longer history of mutancy, and the Juggernaut was the first example of dimensions beyond ours establishing protocols to defend their realms from the threat of mutants (so in essence Juggernaut was a Sentinel of the mystical dimensions)? Perhaps if Kirby had stayed on this could have been the direction they headed in!? What I like about this is it makes what previously appeared as non-mutant characters like the Stranger and Juggernaut having a legitimate reason for appearing in the title by properly tying them directly into the mutant mythology.

So could Cyttorak be an anti-mutant force here…

…and Claremont had picked up on this, and therefore intended the gem that powered the “Mister Sinister” android to be a fragment of the Ruby Gem of Cyttorak, and N’astirh fled his “sanctum sanctorum” upon seeing a demonstration of his powers because he recognised it as the power of the crimson bands of Cyttorak?

Now, as earlier promised, to explain how the source of his wide range of superhuman abilities Mister Sinister demonstrated is the Ruby of Cyttorak, and not his mutant ability…

When first introduced in X-Men #12, the giant glowing ruby which Cain Marko picked up in the ancient temple which he had fled inside to avoid being shot while serving in the Korean War had an inscription that read “Whoever touches this gem shall possess the power of the crimson bands of Cyttorak!”

Figure 29_UXM12

If the ruby gem which powers the “Mister Sinister” android is a fragment of it, this would seem to suggest his abilities are all applications of the crimson bands of Cyttorak.

How so?

To answer that question we need to go back to the Marvel Universe’s definition of them.

The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak were initially introduced in Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s Strange Tales, where they were shown as a binding spell that sorcerers used to encase their victim in a circle/ cage of red bands that could not be easily broken out of (e.g. Strange Tales #125, 126, and 128)…

Figure 30_Strange Tales 125, 126, 128

…then Doctor Strange called on them to reveal where his Cloak of Levitation and amulet, the Eye of Agamotto, had been hidden (cf. Strange Tales #143). This alternate use for the crimson bands has never been resolved, and seems inconsistent with its earlier applications.

Figure 31_Strange Tales 143

But might the answer lie by looking more closely at the superhuman abilities Mister Sinister put into application!

In Uncanny X-Men #243, the epilogue to Inferno, Jean begins experiencing a psychic attack after integrating the Pryor clone’s memories, putting up a telekinetic barrier around herself to protect the rest of the team in fear that it might be Madelyne intent to use her powers to cut loose against them.

Figure 32_UXM243

To break through Jean’s telekinetic barrier so they can help her, Psylocke forms a bond with Cyclops, Wolverine and Storm to psi-shift their astral selves inside her mind.

Figure 33_UXM243

While they are observing her mindscape, finally getting close to pulling back the veil of Madelyne’s origin, Mister Sinister’s fist shatters through the mindscape and begins shattering one memory shard after another.

Figure 34a_UXM243Figure 34b_UXM243

While this might not seem connected to Cyttorak’s power at all, recall the Crimson Bands bind because they are unbreakable!

And given they’re unbreakable, this is likely how the power of the Crimson Bands, granted to Cain Marko by Cyttorak’s gem, transform him into an unstoppable physical force (since whatever he motions against effectively “shatters”).

Figure 35_UXM13

So does this firstly explain how Doctor Strange was able to call on the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak to reveal where his cloak and amulet were in Strange Tales #143? That is, if you extend “unstoppable force” to a person’s willpower, then was Doctor Strange able to find out where his cloak and amulet by calling on the Crimson Bands to empower his will so he could break through the spell concealing them? It would seem “Most likely”!

Now onto how the source of Mister Sinister’s wide range of superhuman abilities are derived entirely from the Ruby of Cyttorak, I would further suggest that when the ANDROID is able to launch what would appear to be a psychic attack on Jean, and start shattering her memories, is not the result of young Nate possessing any mutant telepathic ability, but rather the ruby gem powering Mister Sinister android with the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak which enable the android to “exude waves of force” to break through psionic shields.

I would further posit evidence to support that the psionic powers are not possessed by young Nate, but that he instead requires the “Mister Sinister” android to exert control over the minds of others on his behalf comes in Classic X-Men #41, when another boy at the orphanage, Toby Rails, upon beating up Nate and teasing him, suddenly finds himself in the clutches of Mister Sinister when heading back to his room. Sinister gloats that he “must now be dealt with… as he most richly deserves”, and the following day Rails, not seeming in control of his faculties, makes his way to the orphanage roof and jumps off, falling to his death.

Figure 36a_CXM41Figure 36b_CXM41

If all of the above hasn’t yet caused you to face fully front true believer, compare the signature energy colour of Mister Sinister’s power, on display during Inferno below (particularly the last panel scene where he releases energy which forms as bonds, tying Cyclops’ hands behind his back from X-Factor #39), with that of the “crimson bands” on display in Strange Tales #124, 126 and 128 above.

Figure 37a_UXM241Figure 37b_XFA39Figure 37c_XFA39Figure 37d_XFA39

So the truth behind Mister Sinister is that he is not a mutant, but rather a synthezoid built by a young mutant; and powered by the Ruby Gem which provide him with a wide range of superhuman abilities derived from the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak.

As for Mister Sinister’s motives cloning Jean Grey; and then manipulating events so this clone would become his “brood mare” and seek out and conceive a child with Scott Summers, might this suggest that Cyttorak wanted control of the Phoenix power. Earlier in Uncanny X-Men #239 “Mister Sinister” claims that young Nathan Christopher Summers will help him win a long-range game. Is this game perhaps with other mutant sorcerers, including Selene, and being run by Cyttorak in a bid for supremacy of the higher dimensions?

Figure 38_Cyttorak

And of course just as Claremont suggested, in his Seriejournalen.dk interview with Ulrik Kristiansen and Tue Sǿrenson in 1996, the story of a young boy using the Ruby of Cyttorak to animate superhuman clones and manipulate heroes into battle with them was rejected and suddenly came up a few years later, starting with Avengers West Coast #64 where a young boy, Stevie, found the gem and gained various mystical powers without becoming the Juggernaut.

Figure 37_AWC64

Post-script: The question remaining is where a child scientific genius with expertise in the fields of cloning and robotics acquired the knowledge to build a highly-advanced android. Could he have inherited his scientific genius from a parent… and if so, which one? By Claremont’s estimates young Nate had been alive since the mid-20th Century so it would need to be one who was old enough to conceive around that time.

Acknowledgements: Thanks go out once again to fnord12 of the Marvel Comics Chronology and the Ancient One of Alvaro’s Comic Book Message Boards for tracking down some hard to obtain images and last of all Kirby historian, Richard Bensam (of Estoreal) for being a patient sounding board on my Juggernaut as “Cyttorak’s protocol against psionic mutants” idea.

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the origin of Marvel’s Limbo?

Limbo was originally St. Augustine’s solution to the thorny theological problem of where infants go who have been deprived of the sanctifying grace of baptism and yet have committed no personal sins. The dogmas of original sin and the necessity of baptism would seem to close the doors of heaven to them. Yet it seems inconsistent with everything we know about a loving and merciful God that these infants would suffer the usual punishments of hell, especially since they have committed no sins of their own. The only way medieval Catholic theologians could reconcile these truths was to posit the existence a third eternal destination for the unbaptised infants: Limbo.

Chris Claremont was the first writer at Marvel to acknowledge Limbo in this way, as an “edge” of Hell into which Colossus’s infant sister plunged…

scene of the infant Illyana Rasputin plunging through Limbo from New Mutants #73

…playing it like a demonic Wonderland with Illyana cast in the role of Alice.

Alice in Wonderland battling the demonic Jabberwocky

While plenty of heroes and villains experienced the existence of Hellish realms firsthand in the Marvel Universe, why would one of them NEED to bring about Limbo?

Recalling the theological reason for Limbo’s existence, I’d suggest it was brought about in direct response to concern for the fate of an unbaptised child. Any hero would have this concern if their faith told them this was where a babe would go after death.  That narrows it down to a hero who was also a devout Catholic.  The most notable practising Catholic in the Marvel Universe is Daredevil, who had a run in with Mephisto and his son Blackheart.

evidence of Matt Murdock's faith from Daredevil #282

However, nowhere during his run was he shown to have fathered a child, nor was he directly associated with parents who lost an infant child.  Plus his powers could not bring about another “dimension.”  It therefore seems reasonable to rule out Daredevil.

So who else?

Ever since Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which Reed and Sue are married by a clergyman of an unnamed denomination…

Fantastic Four Annual 3 Church Wedding

…sequences over the years have shown Susan Richards’ belief in God, including particularly for members of her team (i.e. her family)…

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

…or asking his forgiveness (such as in Fantastic Four #391).

Sue asking God's forgiveness and her belief in the sanctity of life from Fantastic Four #391

Mind you Reed was not exactly a shrinking violent when it came to acknowledging his own belief in a higher power either during the Lee & Kirby years (despite writers after that and before Waid assuming he was anything but religious).

Reed acknowledging a higher power from Fantastic Four #1 and #78 respectively

But I digress…

She tells her son Franklin that around Easter and Christmas she lights a candle at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the premier church of the Archdiocese of New York.

Sue in St Patrick's Cathedral, New York, from Marvel Holiday Special 2004 #1

So her rarely spoken of faith is revealed here as Catholicism.

It is this to which Adam Warlock’s emissary alludes in the “Infinity Crusade”.Invisible Woman from Infinity CrusadeJohnny Storm acknowledging his sister as a religious person in Infinity Crusade

This establishes her knowledge of the theory of Limbo, but what would make her want to create such a realm?

The answer I’d suggest is two-fold.

In Fantastic Four #276, Mephisto captures Reed and Susan, enraged at having lost his increased power due to the intervention of their son Franklin Richards.

Susan and Reed being kidnapped to Mephisto's Hell from Fantastic Four #276

In #277 he torments them both, but for some reason seems to take extra delight in doing so to Susan?!

Susan being tortured by Mephisto from Fantastic Four #277

Reed is conscious and defiant against Mephisto throughout his torment in this issue…

Reed Richards defiant at Mephisto's torture from Fantastic Four #277

…while Sue is a quivering, screaming mess and depicted as being at the Hell-lord’s mercy (in a manner totally unbecoming of Sue when facing a villain).

Sue depicted as a quivering, screaming mess at Mephisto's mercy from Fantastic Four #277

I would therefore suggest Mephisto singles out Susan due to her Catholic faith.

Still…

Okay, so what about her faith is Mephisto tormenting Susan for exactly?

It is worth noting that only a few issues earlier, in Fantastic Four #267, Susan “lost the child she was carrying”.

Sue's miscarriage from Fantastic Four #267

I would therefore propose that Mephisto, exploiting Susan’s faith, torments her with the thought that since she lost her child before it was baptised it would not go to Heaven. And although Sue was likely taught about Limbo as a young child when her aunt took her to church, the old doctrine was dismissed in the reforms of Vatican II, something Mephisto would eagerly remind her of, reiterating that her wide-ranging travels with the Fantastic Four had not happened upon the version espoused by her faith, so her unborn child would reach no such supposed haven.

Once Susan is free of Mephisto’s realm and the immediate terror she experienced, now surrounded by her family, she prays with every fibre of her being for her unborn child…

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

…and unconsciously folds space to create a pocket universe where it has a chance to escape the fate Mephisto has in store for it.

But how could the Invisible Woman create a pocket universe when her ability is to render herself wholly or partially invisible, the result of her being able to bend lightwaves away from her?

However, with the revelation during Tom DeFalco’s run that her energy seems to originate from a higher dimension of hyperspace…

Sue's power is revealed to originate from hyperspace from Fantastic Four #400Sue's power is revealed to originate from hyperspace from Fantastic Four #408

…I’d alternatively suggest Sue’s ability is more complex and what she actually does is to take a piece of hyperspace and fold it onto itself like a pocket and use it as a hiding place (anything inside the pocket is apparently almost invisible to sensors and the naked eye).

This ability initially manifests as the ability to render herself wholly or partially invisible, but when the fear that her unborn child will fall into the hands of the demon-lord Mephisto for the first time it shows a hint of its potential when she unconsciously accesses hyperspace as later theorised by Reed’s father, Nathaniel, and takes a piece of it, folding it onto itself to create a “pocket universe” to hide her unborn child in… but leaving an infinite number of access points so she can one day reach them (which manifest as the “stepping discs” which are part of the Limbo dimension).

And so, for the first time Susan demonstrates powers later shown by her son, Franklin, when he creates the pocket universe of Counter-Earth shown in the Heroes Reborn event to relocate the Fantastic Four and Avengers there to prevent their deaths at the hands of Onslaught. While Franklin’s power there was previously explained as a result of reality-warping abilities…

Franklin's power previously explained as a result of reality-warping abilities from Heroes Reborn The Return #1

…I’d instead suggest that as a mutant his latent ability to take a piece of hyperspace and fold it onto itself like a pocket was inherited from his mother, Susan.

Post-script:

Does Susan then make a deal with the Watcher to relocate his base to Limbo to watch over the child to ensure Mephisto doesn’t get her (where he is operating out of, instead of the Moon, in Strange Tales #134)?

Watcher acknowledging his base in Limbo from Strange Tales 134

But why would Uatu agree to break his oath of non-interference over this particular matter?

Well firstly I’d direct readers back to a particular scene in Fantastic Four where Uatu the Watcher becomes the first character in the Marvel Universe to not only refer explicitly to the Christian version of God, but acknowledge him as the most all-powerful being in the Marvel Universe.

Uatu acknowledging the Christian God as the most powerful entity in the Marvel Universe from Fantastic Four #72

With Uatu declaring himself a clear-cut Christian monotheist in the above scene, he would understand the gravity of Mephisto’s threat to Susan. That is, he would immediately interpret it as a direct threat against his deity by the Marvel Universe’s version of the Christian Devil. And given Susan is among the group of humans he has watched over more than any other on Earth, this event more than any other is the one he’d be most likely break his oath of non-interference over.

As for Mephisto, could all the other versions of Limbo we’ve seen have been the result of him plotting to undermine its integrity so he can abduct the child!?

Could this also be what the Celestial Messiah plot was all about?

That is, did the Watcher cause a star to appear over the Avengers Mansion (at the end of Avengers #128 as revealed in Captain Marvel #39)…

The Watcher causes a star to appear over Avengers Mansion at the start of the Celestial Madonna Saga in Avengers #128

…to put Kang off the trail of who the Celestial Madonna really was? To put the Conqueror off the fact that she was the member of another team… his team… the Fantastic Four!

Has the Celestial Madonna been Susan Richards all along?

And was the Celestial Messiah not of the human- and plant-world, but two other realms?

Now recall the revelation that Susan’s second child was a girl did not occur until years later in Fantastic Four Vol. 3 #22 (during Claremont’s run when we see the birth certificate which says the child was stillborn).

Susan's second child was a girl from Fantastic Four v3 22Susan's second child was a girl from Fantastic Four v3 22

However, in Fantastic Four #267 they’re still referring to it as “the unborn child” with no gender being stated for the remainder of Byrne’s run.

So what if it’s not Valeria Meghan Richards who was the second, child of Sue whom she had lost years before in Fantastic Four #267?

Then who else could she be?

Well I think to figure that out we need to consider what her powers were upon being first introduced, “neutralizing Franklin’s” as revealed in Fantastic Four volume 3 #29.

The purpose of Valeria's powers were to neutralise Franklin's

What purposes could these powers serve? Who more than Franklin, and more than his parents, is afraid of his power? Why Mephisto of course! Haven’t you been reading;)

Mephisto fears Franklin's power from Fantastic Four Annual #20

So what if Mephisto had made a bargain with Doctor Doom to create a clone derived of Sue’s DNA which he promised to release the soul of Victor’s lost love Valeria into? Having a being in Franklin’s constant vicinity, and what better way than through a “big sister”, that could negate his powers so he could finally obtain the boy’s long-sought-after soul!

Mephisto demonstrating his willingness to make a bargain with Doom in order to corrupt the soul of Franklin Richards from Fantastic Four Annaul #20

If so, what then of the spirit of Sue’s unborn child?!

Have we perhaps seen this “child” before?

Well let’s think about it for a moment. That is, recall my positing above that the spirit of Sue’s unborn child was transported to Limbo for its own protection! If so, “the child” is likely still there.

So which characters inhabiting Limbo could be likely candidates for this child?

Well we can rule out Magik, Illyana Rasputin, given she is the sister of Colossus of the X-Men.

Illyana Rasputin as then Sorceress Supreme of Limbo from Uncanny X-Men #231

It would seem similarly safe to rule out her previous master, demon-lord of Limbo, Belasco who allegedly started out as a sorcerer in 13th Century Florence, Italy.

Belasco started out as a sorcerer in 13th Century from Ka-Zar the Savage #12

Then there’s of course the self-proclaimed lord of Limbo, Immortus, who while revealed as a Richards, originates from the Fantastic Four’s future, not their present (or recent past).

Immortus, proclaiming himself lord of Limbo in Avengers 131

Then of course there’s the Watcher who I noted above as also operating from Limbo in Strange Tales #134 (and earlier threatening to transport the Red Ghost there in Fantastic Four #13).

Watcher also has base of operations in Limbo from Fantastic Four 13

But Uatu can be ruled out as he wasn’t ever trapped there, given he also had as his home the Blue Area of the Moon.

So who does that leave us with? Well a character first introduced in Avengers #2 who in fact was the first character to make reference to Limbo in the modern Marvel Universe, Space Phantom!

Modern Marvel's first character to make reference to Limbo from Avengers #2

While the character was later revealed, in Thor #281, as being from the planet Phantus and from a species that had mastered the intricacies of time travel long before they had attempted space travel (cf. Thor #281)…

The planet Phantus from Thor 281

…then later again had this retconned to reveal in Avengers Forever #8 that beings who get trapped in Limbo slowly forget their previous existence and turn into Space Phantoms.

Retcon that Space Phantoms are beings who get trapped in Limbo and forget their previous existence from Avengers Forever 8

However, given the story in Thor #281 was revealed to be an illusion generated by Immortus, and the whole conceit of Avengers Forever miniseries being a plot generated by the self-same villain, it’s totally conceivable that the more recent Space Phantom revelation is just another of his manipulated schemes.

I’d therefore posit that perhaps there’s more to the Space Phantom’s name than we have previously ascribed. What if he is literally a phantom – the insubstantial remnant of a once-living being? And why a Space Phantom? As opposed to a Time Phantom (particularly when his power is to displace people to a temporal dimension such as Limbo and take their place)? A Relative Dimensions Phantom?

So if we establish the Phantom was a once-living being, the next question is why a “Space” Phantom?

Well if he is the child Susan was carrying that she lost, which I’m proposing here, I’d posit the “SPACE” part of his name derives from the fact that like his mother, he can generate and control a form of energy from hyperSPACE!

And the reason he has to swap places with others is because when Susan unconsciously created Limbo she did so that her child would be “bound” to it in order to protect them from Mephisto (and all the attempted demonic incursions have been about trying to weaken the protective barrier).

But over time he comes to learn that his inherited abilities to access hyperspace enable him to fold another’s physical projection around him (as Plok puts it, copying their “hyperspatial imprint”:), causing them to suddenly end up with his form, thereby tricking Limbo and thereby displacing them and enabling him to temporarily escape its protective “prison”.

Modern Marvel's first character to make reference to Limbo from Avengers #2

The logical corollary of this being that Limbo doesn’t cause those who get trapped to forget their previous existence and turn into Space Phantoms (as suggested in Avengers Forever #8), but rather Space Phantom’s folding of himself out of Limbo and folding of them there in his place!

But how can all this be when Space Phantom in Avengers #2 refers to his “people” invading Earth?

Space Phantom reveals his plans to enable his people to invade Earth from Avengers #2

Well, there’s nothing to say his “people” are necessarily of his original race! That is, if he is an unborn child that has not had the opportunity at a real life, and Limbo ends up becoming the place for other unborn children (to protect them from Mephisto), these other “ghosts” become his community. And not knowing the reason why they are in Limbo in the first place, they perceive it as a prison from which they most desperately want to escape from…

…and see Earth from Limbo…

…while at the same time realising Space Phantom has the ability to access hyperspace to temporarily escape…

…so task him with becoming the advance scout for their “race”, an invasion force from Limbo intent on conquering Earth.

Acknowledgements: Once again there are a series of thank yous I need to make whom without this post would not have been anything more than a pipe-dream: So without further ado, thanks to Richard Bensam of Estoreal for reviewing my initial draft, fnord12 of the Marvel Comics Chronology, Ancient One and thjan of Alvaro’s Comic Book Message Boards for tracking down some hard to obtain images, Chris Tolworthy of zak-site.com and world’s foremost authority on the Fantastic Four and Plok of A Trout in the Milk for their van Vogtian assistance in helping me explain the science fiction implications of theoretical physics:)