…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.

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…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.

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:)

…the Molecule Man and the Beyonder?

beyonder-and-molecule-man-turn-into-a-cosmic-cube

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.

…Gateway’s origin?

Figure 01

Before Chris Claremont was unceremoniously fired from the X-titles by Bob Harras, we never learnt the origins of the mutant aborigine Gateway or the details behind the “geas” binding him to the land surrounding the abandoned mining town that served as the Reavers’ outback headquarters.

In the letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229 it says this about Gateway:

"And the full truth won't be known about Gateway for quite some time – which just might cost the X-Men dearly!" (letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229)

“And the full truth won’t be known about Gateway for quite some time – which just might cost the X-Men dearly!” (letters page of Uncanny X-Men #229)

Cryptic hint there in that last sentence, wouldn’t you say?  What “full truth” is going to cost the X-Men dearly?? When we meet Gateway in #229, he is providing the villainous Reavers use of his teleporting powers.  But why? Reaver leader Bonebreaker knows something about Gateway, saying on Page 9:

"Don't mind. He can look any which way he pleases... so long as he does what he's told. But mark me, Gateway-- any funny stuff, an' the Reavers'll trash your Holy Place beyond all hope o-' reconsecration-- an' then your people will NEVER know peace. They'll wander the Dreamlands, slave to OUTSIGN SPIRITS, to the end of time an' beyond!" (cf. Uncanny X-Men #229, p.9)

“Don’t mind. He can look any which way he pleases… so long as he does what he’s told. But mark me, Gateway– any funny stuff, an’ the Reavers’ll trash your Holy Place beyond all hope o’ reconsecration– an’ then your people will NEVER know peace. They’ll wander the Dreamlands, slave to OUTSIGN SPIRITS, to the end of time an’ beyond!” (cf. Uncanny X-Men #229, p.9)

Gateway stares at Bonebreaker with barely hidden contempt.  Reading the above quote, the “Holy Place” Bonebreaker mentions is obviously the land surrounding the outback town, where the spirits of Gateway’s ancestors reside.  What’s further interesting about this quote is that the Dreamlands, the usual resting place for all ancestral spirit beings in Australian Aboriginal mythology, according to Bonebreaker are threatened by “outsign spirits”.

So just what are these “outsign spirits” threatening the Dreamlands?

The next time Claremont refers to the Aboriginal Dreamtime, also known as Alchera, being under threat is when the Shadow King kidnaps Gateway in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001 in an effort to access the totality of time-space and all of creation through it.

Figure 04

Interesting to note  in this Annual is that Donald Pierce, leader of the Reavers, is revealed to have been among the Shadow King’s many hosts.

Figure 05

So was the Shadow King one of the “outsign spirits” Bonebreaker refers to, and the Reaver’s threat to Gateway concerns the Shadow King enslaving his ancestors if he didn’t serve their villainous needs?

Other mysteries surrounding this whole Claremont plot include the origins of the Australian Outback town itself and the land surrounding it.

Figure 06

So what were the origins of the town, and for that matter the Reavers’ base?

Well first up, the saloon in the town is shown with a signpost atop it with the year 1890 inscribed…

Figure 07

…a period when there had been regular massacres of Aboriginal people by white settlers in Australia. This initially made me consider the significance of the town to be that white settlers had massacred Gateway’s people and had further desecrated the land by building their town over it.

However, if we go back to Bonebreaker’s quote in Uncanny X-Men #229, he threatens to desecrate their Holy Place (FUTURE TENSE), not that it has already been desecrated (PAST or PRESENT TENSE)!

Then there is the mystery of the technology of the Reavers’ base.  The underground computer system in particular is technologically advanced – moreso than that of the X-Mansion –

Figure 08

so advanced in fact that it teaches Madelyne how to operate it – something she found eerily convenient.

Figure 09

Among its many other advanced features it once tapped into Madelyne’s dreams and displayed them on its monitors, suggesting it had the ability to psionically scan minds and translate this into visual images.

Figure 10

However, this ability only manifested after Madelyne appeared to have made contact with Limbo and there is evidence that S’ym and N’astirh could perform this trick with other devices, during one instance while Madelyne was away from the Outback…

Figure 11

…N’astirh contacted her over a computer monitor on the island of Genosha in Uncanny X-Men #236.

Figure 12

In addition to being possibly self-aware and connected to Limbo, the computer appeared to be self-repairing as well.  It was perhaps even organic, the monitor twice repairing itself after a user damaged it; once at the hands of Madelyne in Uncanny X-Men #234…

Figure 13

..and once by Havok in Uncanny X-Men #249.

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Then after the Reavers retook the town, they observed that the computer system seemed to be growing on its own.

Figure 15a

Figure 15b

This self-repairing ability would seem analogous to Sentinel technology (i.e. Master Mold as shown in Uncanny X-Men #246)…

Figure 16

…or the Transmode Virus, and given the demon N’astirh had during Inferno been shown to have been infected by this virus…

Figure 17

…this could suggest his seduction of Madelyne through its systems spread the virus enough that the system’s former operator, Bonebreaker, would understandably show surprise at its new programming language and note its growth being comparable to that of a living organism (see above).

But what of the computer’s advanced technology shown prior to its potential infection by the Transmode Virus, and that beyond Bonebreakers’ modifications?  Does a clue lie in Uncanny X-Men #253?  The other Reaver besides Bonebreaker that demonstrates knowledge operating the computer’s systems in this issue is Lady Deathstrike, particularly its comprehensive surveillance system, which she refers to as “Spyeye”.

Figure 18

Now where have we heard that before?  This is the term by which Psylocke’s prosthetic set of cybernetic eyeballs Spiral implanted to replace those blinded by Slaymaster – which also functioned as cameras allowing Mojo to spy on the X-Men – were referred by Mojo and Spiral.

Figure 19

Considering Lady Deathstrike was cybernetically enhanced by Spiral to become a member of the Reavers…

Figure 20

…I’d posit the technology behind their base’s computer system, with its advanced cameras, etc., could be from Mojoworld and have been purchased from Spiral by Donald Pierce.

But back to the “outsign spirits” Bonebreaker refers to, which, sadly, the explanation for has been RIGHT THERE in another tale from Marvel’s history.

This tale requires us to travel to Wakanda for a moment where after the vibranium meteor fell there, as revealed by T’Challa in Black Panther #7…

Figure 21a

…it emitted radiation causing mutations in small portions of the population, turning them into “demon spirits” who attacked their fellow tribe members.

Figure 21b

T’Challa’s ancestor, Bashenga, declared the vibranium mound too dangerous closing it to outsiders, and formed the Panther Cult to guard over it thus preventing others from being transformed by it into “demon spirits” and spreading across the kingdom.

Figure 21c

I would therefore suggest that the “outsign spirits” to whom Bonebreaker refers were Aborigines similarly transformed by a vibranium meteor that fell in the Australian Outback.

This raises another question, that being where is the vibranium meteor now?  In order to answer this, I must continue to try explaining the mystery behind the Australian Outback town.

It is worth noting that a vast, sprawling complex lies hidden beneath the town where the Reavers established their base; the buildings connected to each other by a series of underground tunnels and a sewer system, in addition to massive vaults.

Figure 22

These catacombs – obviously predating the Reavers’ arrival – are indicative of abandoned mining corridors.

Does this therefore suggest that white settlers had discovered small vibranium deposits and so decided to establish a mining town on the site (that was the land of Gateway’s ancestors)?

I’ll get to this mystery soon but will first try to answer where the vibranium meteor had fallen in the Australian Outback.

When it comes to Gateway, he spends virtually every moment we saw him – during Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men run – sitting atop a rock not unlike Uluru.

Figure 23

It is interesting to note that Uluru, a mineral rich monolith arising from the heart of Australia…

Figure 24

…used to be believed by people to be a meteorite.  So was Claremont aware of this theory and decided to reveal the similar monolith overlooking the town as a vibranium mound?

Might this further suggest Claremont intended to reveal Gateway’s power as a product of the mutagenic properties of a vibranium mound?  In addition to Gateway being somehow indebted to the Reavers, Uncanny X-Men #269 revealed that a “geas” bound him to the place to perform some task.

Figure 25

I would posit that this was equivalent to the sacred duty of the Panther Cult in Wakanda and was placed upon him by his spirit ancestors to ensure he guarded over the monolithic vibranium mound to prevent the “outsign spirits” from breaking free to control the Dreamlands.  To substantiate this theory I’d ask you to recall how during Claremont’s Outback era Gateway is shown to firstly never leave the vicinity of the rock…

Figure 26

…and secondly regularly use a bull-roarer, a sacred object known for its ability in Australian Aboriginal culture to ward off evil spirits.

Figure 27

While writers since Claremont have attempted to place the location of the town and its surrounding land in Western Australia, the town’s high-tech computer systems were to me a more reliable source of information, and they place the town somewhere in North Central Australia.

Figure 28a

Figure 28b

Readers can, I suppose, be forgiven for buying bulldust written by later writers given their lack of familiarity with Australian geography (though for goodness sake if the giant rock Gateway sat atop wasn’t a clue), but a little research about Australian indigenous religion would reveal Gateway’s use of the bull-roarer also held the answer to the location of the town in addition to the identity of his people’s tribal group.  You see, the bull-roarer, also known as a Churinga, is an object of religious significance used only by North Central Australian indigenous people of the Arrernte groups, who are the traditional custodians of the Arrernte lands which lies roughly between Alice Springs and Uluru.

Now back to the mining town, the explanation for who mined the vibranium mound has been RIGHT THERE… and perhaps answers the real reason why Donald Pierce had established the Reavers’ base in this particular Australian Outback town.  Recall that in Marvel Graphic Novel #4, introducing the New Mutants, the mine young Samuel Guthrie gained employment at after the death of his father in Cameron, Kentucky was owned by Pierce-Consolidated Mining, the company responsible for providing Donald with his vast financial resources which made him eligible for membership in the Hellfire Club.

Figure 29

Since Pierce was a pawn of the Shadow King at the time, and probably had been since becoming a member of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club given the Shadow King had been its lord imperial…

Figure 30

…I would posit he had been manipulated to establish the underground complex in the town for purpose of mining the vibranium there; and Pierce had encouraged his original Reavers using it as their base of operations for their international heists to conceal its true function.

But what did the Shadow King want with Vibranium?

Well recall throughout most of his appearances during Claremont’s run how the Shadow King had been pursuing Storm for many years?

Figure 31

Toward the end of his run, in Uncanny X-Men #265, further hints were dropped as to what was behind this bizarre obsession when the Shadow King claimed she had been promised to him long ago.

Figure 32

With it then being shown in Uncanny X-Men #253 that the Shadow King had Gateway bound for some time, could this finally explain what he was attempting all along?

Figure 33a

Figure 33bNow recall that both Ororo’s mother N’Dare’s tribe was in Kenya and Wakanda is likewise obviously meant to be in Kenya – what with its name being evocative of the Wakamba tribe of Kenya.  However, Wakanda is a patriarchy, the title of Black Panther prior to T’Challa always having gone to the nation’s king, whereas N’Dare was a princess in a matriarchal tribe.

Figure 34

This raises the question of how N’Dare’s tribe became a matriarchy.  Might it stem back to the incident in Wakanda?  That is, was N’Dare’s tribe originally a clan of the territory that was cut off when Bashenga founded the nation of Wakanda around the area of the vibranium mound to prevent the spread of “demon spirits” across the kingdom?  And was the Shadow King leader of a clan who was mutated into a “demon spirit” by radiation from the mound?  Were the males of this clan perhaps more susceptible to being transformed into “demon spirits” and did the surviving clan go on to became a matriarchy after this incident? And is this why the Shadow King was so intent on gaining possession of Ororo, so he could unseat the ancient line of sorceresses and reinstate himself as rightful heir to the tribe’s mystical power, after which he intends to return to Wakanda to release his demon brethren?  A closely guarded secret of the royal family of Wakanda is that pure vibranium can amplify magical abilities exponentially, so had whom Farouk had been back then discovered this and made his way to the mound to increase the power of some spell, which led to his becoming a being of pure psionic energy, further prompting Bashenga’s formation of the Black Panther Cult to guard the sacred mound containing it?

If this was the case why did he then need to manipulate Donald Pierce and force Gateway into his servitude?

Well recall he had been defeated at every turn in his efforts to possess Storm, so had he turned his attentions to the Sacred Mound in Australia as a backup?  That is, by firstly employing Pierce to mine the site the mound would be uncovered and the “outsign spirits” equivalent to his demon brethren would be released and enslave Gateway’s spirit ancestors, thereby shifting them off the board so he could go on to conquer the Dreamtime, perhaps providing him with a back door to Wakanda.

Whatever the case may be, the remaining question in this overall plot requiring an intellectually-satisfying answer is where did the vibranium meteor originate from?  With my fix suggesting Storm’s ancestry as Faltine, I began entertaining the idea that Vibranium had come to reside on Earth as a result of an ancient Wakandan cult summoning it from some Dark Dimension by performing some dark ritual; and that the leader of this ancient cult was a member of Bashenga’s tribe who would go on to become the Shadow King as a result of the meteor’s radiation.

But this didn’t sit quite right with me, and I recalled how the Vibranium mound was shown in Black Panther #7 to transform at least one member of Bashenga’s tribe into a great red demon with tough, leathery skin and razor-sharp claws…

Figure 35

…leading me to think of Kierrok, and whether the vibranium meteor had been summoned by the ancient Wakandan cult from the N’Garai dimension?  And were those of Bashenga’s tribe who were transformed into “demon spirits” members of this mystical cult and their leader mutated into a demon of pure psionic energy?

However, I still found myself not entirely satisfied with this explanation, and began returning my thoughts to the Arrernte people above and how their term for the Dreaming is the Alchera, a name etymologically similar to the spirit plane called the Alshra…

Figure 36a

…introduced by Claremont’s partner in Arthurian crime, Alan Davis, in the Wolverine 1990 annual, Bloodlust.

Figure 36b

Figure 36c

In this tale, a group of the Neuri tribe are draining energy from the spirit plane following their transformation into “demon spirits” after feasting on human flesh…

Figure 36d

Figure 36e

…a concept identical to that more famous Marvel spirit demon, Wendigo.  It is worth noting that the curse of the Wendigo is referred to as a “curse of the Elder Gods” in Monsters Unleashed #9.

Figure 37

As it’s written by Claremont, that would seem to tie the Wendigo to the N’Garai.

So if the N’Garai are responsible for this “demon spirit” does this suggest they are responsible for all “demon spirits” in the Marvel Universe and are exposing those they corrupt into demons with raw vibranium?  Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu #22, also written by Claremont, reveals that many millennia ago, long before the Great Cataclysm which sank Atlantis, humanity was enslaved by the N’Garai, serving as their workers.

Figure 38

It has never been revealed what work it was that humans were forced to perform for the N’Garai, but I’d posit based on the above that it was mining vibranium for them.

This would seem to suggest that the N’Garai had conquered Earth for the purpose of mining its vibranium deposits, which would mean the vibranium meteor had obviously not come from their dimension.

That is, unless the N’Garai were not otherdimensional demons at all but rather our ancient ancestors, and like later “demon spirits” were similarly transformed by the vibranium deposits!

But if the N’Garai were birthed on Earth, this still leaves unresolved the question of where the vibranium meteor originates from.

While vibranium does not obviously originate from the dimension the N’Garai were banished to (by Satana’s father according to Marvel Preview #7), was there more to their interest in Limbo than just using it as a “stepping stone” back to Earth?  Now recall that Limbo was a place with an ecology composed primarily of demons, and outsiders who come to be lost/ trapped there similarly develop a demonic appearance.

Figure 39

So might this finally explain not only the mystery of the source of the massive meteor made up of the sound-absorbing mineral vibranium that crashed on Earth, but what was responsible for transforming travellers becoming trapped in Limbo?

To those who made it this far you’ve been wondering “He completely overlooked the Savage Land variant (aka. Anti-Metal)”!   To which I answer “Oh ye of little faith” and posit that Antarctica vibranium, while appearing different due to it destroying other metals by its presence as opposed to the Wakandan version which absorbs energy/ vibrations, has much more in common with it than previously believed.

Figure 40a

Figure 40b

In promoting this theory I’d draw your attention to Ka-Zar the Savage #11, which is set in Pangaea, the semi-tropical paradise hidden in the icy reaches of Antarctica built as an amusement park by the ancient Atlanteans before Atlantis fell, its virtually indestructible machinery keeping the cold at bay.

Figure 41

In this tale we learn this to be the place the N’Garai directed Belasco to for performing a ritual to summon them to Earth.  In his supposed efforts, Belasco formed vast tunnels deep into the caverns of the valley, but I’d alternatively posit he did this with the intention of mining the Anti-Metal for his N’Garai Masters who had previously enslaved humanity to mine it for them before the Great Cataclysm.  Then as is the pattern, upon exposure to pure deposits of the element, he begins developing a demonic appearance.

Figure 42

This tale also introduces the Children of Dis, an underground yellow-skinned humanoid race are identical to Moloids in appearance…

Figure 45a

…save for the power to emit bursts of energy through their eyes, are said to be descendants of Dante’s crew mutated by Belasco.

Figure 45b

But what if he instead had enslaved them to work in the mines and their mutation was from exposure to the Antartic vibranium?  Given their appearance this could further overturn the shoe-horned origin for the Moloids and Tyrannoids – that they were created through Celestial science by the Deviants – and alternatively align it more to their creator, Jack Kirby’s plot of Vibranium as a major source of mutation in the Marvel Universe (still retaining the Deviants but not as creations of the Celestials but rather vibranium mutates who formed their own race).

And here Kirby spells it out in black & pink, Vibranium abilities drawing on energy from Limbo!

And here Kirby spells it out in black & pink, Vibranium abilities drawing on energy from Limbo!

The Children of Dis (hereafter Disoids;) emitting bursts of energy through their eyes further brings to mind those denizens of the Dark Dimension, the Mindless Ones.

Figure 45c

And like the Moloids, Tyrannoids and Disoids, the Mindless Ones are a slave-race summoned to do the bidding of others.   Might this suggest they were originally a cult of wizards who sought out a sacred mound to amplify some spell which similarly transformed them into “demon spirits”!?  And might this further explain how the realm that later became the Dark Dimension got wiped out half a million years ago?  That is, upon being transformed, these mindless wizards were perhaps compelled, like Jakarra, to enter the vibranium mound in that universe; generating a shockwave so massive it shattered the dimension, creating warps into pocket universes?  I’d further posit that the Mindless Ones managed to somehow survive this cataclysm and their continued attempts at shattering the Dark Dimension’s great mystical barrier is in an effort to access the warps into pocket universes so they can seek out more stores of vibranium.  Which leads me to finally conclude that Vibranium originates from this realm and the cataclysm that destroyed it sent meteors of the stuff through the warps it created into pocket universes…

Figure 44

…which is how it ended up in Wakanda, Antarctica, the heart of Australia and various other locations.  It’s interesting to note in Marvel Preview #7 the N’Garai were revealed as being defeated and driven from the Earth by the forces of Heaven, led by the angel Lucifer (Satana’s father), prior to his fall.  Humanity subsequently gained its freedom.  Given we are now to a point that Vibranium originated from the realm that became the Dark Dimension, and the Faltine conquer this dimension in an effort to keep the Mindless Ones from setting off further cataclysms in pocket universes in their pursuit of vibranium, might Lucifer and his host have known to drive the N’Garai from Earth because they were likewise aware of how the Dark Dimension came to be?  As to how, recall in Ghost Rider, and then Son of Satan, he had very similar facial features to Dormammu, including the flaming head.  I’d therefore posit that these flames were the flames of regency and Lucifer was the first Regent of the Dark Dimension!

Now back to Ka-Zar the Savage #11 where I’d like to point out that the story in this issue, which is the foundation from which Claremont builds his “Return of the Elder Gods” subplot on (i.e. Belasco’s efforts to free the N’Garai from their dimensional imprisonment), is titled “Children of the Damned”.  This is of particular note when you recall his regular use of the term “Damned” when referring to these demons, e.g. Kierrok THE DAMNED, the Shiatra Book of THE DAMNED and don’t get me started on Prince Gaynor the Damned (from the Conan the Barbarian story introducing Kulan Gath, another sorcerer Claremont would go on to use and reveal as a High Priest of the N’Garai).  By using this term it would appear he is suggesting this whole connection between the N’Garai and demonic transformation from exposure to “pure vibranium”.

In this same issue Pangaea’s rides and attractions began attacking Ka-Zar and crew (which they blamed on Belasco).

Figure 45

But what if their exposure to vibranium was likewise causing this?  What do inanimate objects attacking and devouring people remind you of?  The answer of course is Inferno, when the whole of New York City became demonically possessed!  Pangaea’s amusement park interestingly does resemble Dante’s Inferno, even to the extent of its entranceway having the inscription… Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Figure 43

So does this suggest the rides and attractions the park possessed by “demon spirits” too, and this was also caused by the vibranium exposure?  And if this is the case, does this finally explain why the Reavers’ computer system appeared to be growing on its own, with its former operator, Bonebreaker, comparing it to a living organism?  You’d have to agree this is a much better fix than my above suggestion of Mojoworld technology since it links it directly to the overall matter for discussion, that is, Vibranium being another source of mutation in the Marvel Universe.

And given the Atlanteans had extremely advanced technology in the lead-up to the Great Cataclysm, was the “orichalcum” they used as an energy source, including to power their vailixi, actually “vibranium” which they mined causing members of their race to mutate into “demon spirits” who were then banished by King of Atlantis, Kamuu. I’d further posit these “demon spirits” went on to conquer Lemuria and then storm the domed capital city of Atlantis under which the Vibranium mound perhaps was.

Figure 47

And the final cataclysm that sank both continents was a result of one of these “demon spirits” entering the mound, analogous to when Jakarra, T’Challa’s half-brother, was compelled to journey to the Sacred Mound after his transformation into a “demon spirit” which would unwittingly generate a cataclysmic shockwave so powerful it could destroy the earth.  Interesting to note here is that Plato’s Critias refers to orichalcum sparkling “like fire” and flashing with “red light”, which immediately brings to mind the sound constructs used by the Black Panther’s oldest foe, Klaw.  So there’s one more box ticked!

And of further note is how the young homo mermani also named Kamuu, who’d taken up the Sword of Kamuu after finding it in the sunken ruins of  Atlantis, was visited by the spirits of his air-breathing predecessors King Kamuu and Queen Zartra.

Figure 48

So had they crossed over to the spirit plane like Gateway’s ancestors, and the Lemurian “demon spirits” compelled to return to the sacred mound under Atlantis to bring about the cataclysm in an effort to access the Dreamtime/ Alchera/ Alshra and conquer and enslave the spirit world?

While on the subject of Atlantis, and post-Cataclysm King Kamuu, I need to bring up the tribe of the Unforgiven Dead, and their priest-king, Suma-Ket, first seen in Namor the Sub-Mariner #36.  Suma-Ket and his tribe came from the North as the saviour of the undersea city of Atlantis.  Ket claimed his people to be wise men who could rid Atlantis of the plague of Faceless Ones; in return, they wished merely to settle among them.  Suma-Ket freed the Atlanteans from the terror of the Faceless Ones, banishing the monstrous creatures from the city.  In awe of his mighty battle-prowess and great mystical power, the Atlanteans followed Ket, slaying their king Harran, the son of Kamuu, and proclaimed Ket as King of all Atlantis.

Figure 50a

Figure 50b

Once he was made king, the seemingly messianic Suma-Ket transformed into a demonic tyrant, bringing to Atlantis the religion of the Elder Gods and building an immense temple in the capital dedicated to these dark gods (just like Belasco).  Namor #37 reveals that Suma-Ket’s tribe “are followers of the old ways, of deities both foul and fell, dark and evil beings are they, whose cruelty offended the very gods of Olympus”…Figure 50c

…which seems similar to how Kulan Gath was driven out of Stygia for practicing sorcery forbidden even by the worshippers of Set.

Figure 50d

And with Kulan Gath later revealed as a High Priest of the N’Garai you can see where I’m going with this…

Figure 50b

Had Suma-Ket and his tribe of Unforgiven Dead been homo mermani that had settled north of the undersea city of Atlantis to mine a vibranium deposit that had sunk there after breaking off from Atlantis during the great cataclysm for their N’Garai Masters?  It’s interesting to note how Suma-Ket’s banishment of the Faceless Ones from the city of Atlantis leads to his being proclaimed its King just as Dormammu and Umar upon repelling and confining the Mindless Ones were likewise hailed heroes and proclaimed regents of the Dark Dimension.  It was also later revealed that the Faceless Ones had really been mindless servants of Ket…

Figure 50d

… which would seem to suggest, under this theory, that they had been homo mermani transformed by radiation from the vibranium mound north of Atlantis into undersea “demon spirits”; similar to perhaps how the Mindless Ones were transformed.

But I’m not stopping there in my Grand Unified Theory.

This whole plot raises in my mind a number of other mysteries introduced by Chris Claremont that could be resolved in one fell swoop, this time surrounding Xavier’s Estate in Westchester County.  Was the stone cairn carved with mystical symbols on Xavier’s Estate installed there, of all places, due to it once being the site of a Vibranium mound?

Figure 49

That is, if the N’Garai were inhabitants of Earth evolved into demons by the mineral’s energies they would be more likely to be hanging around sites with deposits of the unstable mineral!

Figure 51

The other mystery is the network of tunnels leading from Manhattan to directly beneath the hangar complex below the mansion on Xavier’s estate!

Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19).  Coincidence!?

Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19). Coincidence!?

Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Might the N’Garai demon that made its way into the mansion in Uncanny X-Men #143 have been compelled to do so because of one such mound lying beneath the massive underground complex, similar to the one below the Reavers’ base, which was constructed to mine vibranium which was then transported by train some forty miles to Manhattan for shipping to perhaps the San Francisco Mint which held the entire stock of the United States’ vibranium as revealed in Spider-Woman #37?  It’s interesting to note that Claremont introduced Siryn in this same issue as accomplice to her uncle Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut in their plan to rob the Mint of the United States’ stock of vibranium.

Figure 51

Could it be that Black Tom wasn’t just after the metal for profit?  Then why!

I believe the answer lies in Siryn’s sonic powers.

Now recall when Claremont originally introduced Black Tom his actions were primarily driven by his hate and jealousy for his cousin, Sean (Banshee).  So did Tom come to the belief that Sean’s mutant abilities were to blame for his own failures, Sean subtly using his sonic powers to manipulate the roll of the dice in the game that won him both Cassidy Keep and the family fortune in addition to winning the heart of Maeve Rourke?  Then when Sean is away on Interpol business, Tom discovers some a small deposit of vibranium in Cassidy Keep (perhaps left behind by the leprechauns) and an analysis shows its sonic properties which lead him to believe it is responsible for Sean’s mutation.  He perhaps then tried exposing himself to the sample but it wasn’t enough to impact on a fully grown adult.  Frustrated he perhaps exposes young Theresa to it without her knowledge and is surprised to discover she begins manifesting similar abilities to her father.

So yes, I’m suggesting Siryn is not necessarily your garden-variety mutant.  That is, it has always been a mystery about how Siryn came to develop the same abilities as her father, since up until her introduction while inheriting the gene responsible for mutant powers offspring did not inherit the same subset of abilities as their mutant parents.  Then in the following issue, Spider-Woman #38, Siryn is shown to be able to create illusions with her sonic powers.

Figure 52

So were her sonic powers not inherited but a result of exposure to a sample of vibranium Tom exposed her to, and her so-called “illusions” are actually inchoate sonic constructs?  And Tom’s plan to steal the United States’ vibranium was so he could expose himself to a larger concentration of the mineral and in his mind make himself a more powerful version of Banshee, thereby reclaiming his rightful status in the family as Sean’s superior (but would obviously as we know turn himself into a rampaging “demon spirit”)!

Returning to the stone cairns for a moment… there is another famous stone with mystical carvings that crops up during Claremont’s run… the tombstone that seals the portal Forge forced the Adversary through.

Figure 53

I’ve contended for years now that the Adversary was somehow connected to the N’Garai and this may have been another hint dropped by Claremont to suggest so.  During The Fall of the Mutants we are shown a scene in Vietnam where Forge uses the spirits of his fallen comrades to summon forth N’Garai demons to take revenge on the Vietcong…

Figure 54

…an action that apparently allowed the Adversary to come to Earth.

It’s also worth noting that back in his first appearance the Adversary is actually called “The Great Spirit” so might this resolve the connection and suggest Claremont intend to later reveal him as leader of all the “demon spirits”?

Figure 54

But back to Siryn… if her sonic powers were not inherited from her father, but rather a result of exposure to vibranium, we need to look to what other Marvel’s heroes this may have likewise been the case for.

And I’m not suggesting only looking for those characters with abilities similar to Klaw, the Sultan of Sound!

I’d firstly nominate another Marvel character with vibratory powers was the global terrorist, Moses Magnum. Obsessed with weapons, he became the head of a major global weapons manufacturer.  Initially dealing with chemical weapons, after a blistering defeat at the hands of Spider-Man and the Punisher, he turned his attention to mining operations.  After a confrontation with the hero known as Power Man, Magnum fell down a shaft which his laser drill had bored to the centre of the Earth.  To Magnum’s surprise, he was saved from the fall by Apocalypse (cf. Classic X-Men #25) who transformed him so that he was able to generate concussive force and seismic powers.

apocalypse22

The first use of Moses Magnum’s new abilities and technology came during his assault on the isles of Japan, where he was confronted and defeated by the X-Men (cf. Uncanny X-Men #118-119).  I’d suggest Magnum had manifested these particular powers as a result of Apocalypse exposing him to a sample of vibranium.

Next I’d nominate another character Apocalypse had his hand in transforming; Cable, one of the most powerful telepaths/ telekinetics on the planet.  Now recall when he was baby in X-Factor, Nathan was shown with a force-field power (think Unus the Untouchable), which really could be separate and have had nothing to do with his psionic abilities.

cable01

This would seem to suggest Cable’s true mutant power is to generate a force-field, and the psionic powers come from a different source.  So what is that source, you ask!  What’s really interesting here is that T’Challa is exposed to vibranium radiation and suddenly develops psionic abilities, making me believe that Cable’s enhanced psionic abilities were a result of his own exposure to vibranium radiation which I’d suggest emerged as a result of the Techno-Organic Virus Apocalypse infected him with…

Nathan infected by Apocalypse

…a virus which derived from Anti-Metal he mined from his base in the Savage Land.

jungleadventure

I’d next suggest that Killraven’s heightened perceptions, especially his ESP hallucinations…

Figure 61

… are akin to those developed by T’Challa in Black Panther #10 after he is exposed to “pure vibranium”.

Figure 50a

Figure 50b

Figure 50c

So when earlier was young Jonathan exposed to vibranium?  To determine that answer I’m proposing that he was raised in the Savage Land and that his parents were in fact Lord Kevin Plunder and Shanna O’Hara! But the son of Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil was named Matthew and Jonathan Raven’s mother was named Maureen?

What I’m proposing here is that while growing up as a child in the Savage Land with his parents, Matthew was in close proximity to the vibranium deposits there, which granted him ESP which lay dormant until the stress of experimentation by Keeper Whitman caused them to finally manifest.  Knowing these abilities had the potential to defeat the Martians…

Figure 58

…Ka-Zar and Shanna separated, Ka-Zar remaining behind in the Savage Land to defend it from invasion, Shanna fleeing with young Matthew to New York City where she changed their names, adopting Maureen, after Maureen O’Hara her famous namesake, and the surname Raven since it is Middle English for Plunder!  Then consider the Panther’s vibranium in the light of Frank Herbert’s Dune, and the spice, it seems like telepathy, but then it also seems like clairvoyance, as perhaps ungovernable telepathy would.  But maybe it’s neither of those.  Maybe it’s a space-time effect!  I would posit here that T’Challa’s exposure to the pure vibranium makes him not able to necessarily “read” minds, but rather make contact, i.e. he’s touching them, he’s there… it’s a distance effect.  In this whole Vibranium plot Chris Claremont makes even more explicit reference to Dune in Uncanny X-Men #251, where he has one the Reavers specifically refer to Psylocke as a “mentat”.

Figure 65

I’d therefore extend Killraven’s psionic abilities to being an extension of T’Challa’s likewise caused from exposure to Vibranium while raised by his parents Ka-Zar and Shanna in the Savage Land, and reintroduce him as Marvel’s version of Muad’Dib!  I’d further posit M’Shulla Scott was perhaps a sleeper agent from Wakanda sent to join the Freeman (?Marvel Fremen?) to secretly mentor him in the use of these abilities!  And that the Martians were really on Earth to mine Vibranium so they could then use it to “fold space” in order to return to their original homeworld!

Then there’s, of course, Matt Murdock.  That is, was the radioactive substance inside the drum that fell from the truck and spilled directly onto his eyes some form of vibranium?

Figure 53
It is rather interesting that the Savage Land variant (i.e. Anti-Metal) is first introduced in of all series Daredevil, and the only issue illustrated by Jack Kirby to boot.

Figure 54

And isn’t it further interesting that the substance from the accident not only gave Matt heightened senses but a sonar that allowed him to “see” through sonic vibrations!?

Figure 55

And his costumed identity in effect makes him a “demon spirit” protecting those in Hell’s Kitchen!  As T’Challa states above “DEVILISH metal” indeed!

While on the subject of Anti-Metal, the unstable variant of Wakandan vibranium, might this provide a further explanation for what is behind Marvel’s famous “Unstable Molecules”?  Is it these molecules which make vibranium so unstable in the first place?  While previously considered to be an invention of Reed Richards…

Figure 67a

…recall that the Fantastic Four did not obtain their costumes that adapted to their powers until after three of the four Skrulls they fought in Fantastic Four #2 were captured (while one of the four Skrulls in this issue escaped you’ll recall Ben Grimm did not require a costume that adapted to his Thing state since it didn’t change).

Figure 67bb

In this issue Skrull clothes were shown to adapt to whatever they needed…

Figure 67c

…suggesting they are made of unstable molecules, and it is not until issue #3 that Sue appears with three unstable molecule costumes.

Figure 67d

While on the subject of the Skrulls, it is interesting that their shape-changing cousins, the Dire Wraiths, are red-scaled monstrosities like T’Challa’s cousin.

Figure 67e

Then if you recall that the Martians in H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds are revealed as not native to Mars, might this suggest these invaders in Killraven are in fact Dire Wraiths and the real reason behind their invasion is to obtain vibranium to kickstart their shape-changing abilities which they perhaps lost after the activation of the Hyper-Wave Bomb?

Figure 67f

Tales to Astonish #35, released in the exact same month as first mention of unstable molecules in Fantastic Four, reveals Hank Pym’s own Ant-Man costume was made from unstable molecules…

Figure 68a

…which leads me to further suggest the dimension of Kosmos, from which Pym draws his “growth pollen”, also contains vibranium energy which is why the Pilai were similarly monstrously scaled…

Figure 68b

…and it is this energy (i.e. unstable molecules) which is the true science behind his ability to alter his size.

While on the subject of “unstable molecules”, when Claremont wrote X-Men Forever he reintroduced Gambit as Remy Picard (no longer able to have him as a psionic projection of Scott’s boyhood friend Nathan from the orphanage)…

Figure 69a

…fans assumed this was a veiled reference to the character being a fan of Patrick Stewart’s character in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  However, what if Claremont was instead using Picard to refer to Remy’s being French as it is a surname meaning a person from a historical region and cultural area of France?  So basically Gambit is Remy from Picardy, or at least his true family as intended by Claremont.  So which other characters did Claremont write that came from this region of France?  Well none that I’ve been able to find, but Picardy was famous for being where founding members of the Knights Templars, Godfrey de Saint-Omer, hailed from.  So was Claremont intending to reveal Gambit by this stage as descended from the Knights Templar?  The Knights Templar were rumoured to be protecting a secret treasure, so what if this treasure was vibranium?  And the Guilds are modern day Knights Templars attempting to reclaim this treasure?  And what if that treasure is a bloodline?  And that bloodline is Ororo’s?  That is, throughout Storm’s history she has shown an unusual ability to manipulate and shape unstable molecules into different kinds of clothing with ease.

Figure 69b

Figure 69c

Figure 69d

So might this finally explain the Shadow King’s long obsession with her!?  He realises this ability means she effectively has the ability to shape vibranium.  And this is the reason behind Gambit’s initial pairing up with Stormie!

Figure 69e

But this isn’t the end of the theory and to get closer to that point I must return to the underlying origins of the Marvel Universe itself, in particular Thor #169, where Galactus is revealed to have been the scientist/ explorer Galan who was the only individual from the planet Taa to survive a space plague as a result of absorbing its radiation causing him to be transformed into the devourer of worlds.

Figure 60b

This was retconned somewhat by Mark Gruenwald & John Byrne in Super Villain Classics #1 (1983), where it was revealed that Taa actually existed in the pre-Big Bang universe, thus establishing in Marvel canon that a universe existed prior to the current one, and that Galan/ Galactus came from this universe.

Figure 60

While I liked some of this origin (the appearing to different races differently), making him a Cosmic Principle was a little too comfortable.

As usual, I’ll go back to Stan and Jack, which makes Galactus being from a universe in another dimension possible.  So what was that dimension?  Well we know Galan was a scientist and informed people of an impending cataclysm not only to Taa, but their system as well.

Figure 60e

Figure 60f

When inhabitants of Taa began dying of the radiation wave responsible for the cataclysm and even their advanced skills could not prevent it, Galan, believing at least one of his race to be immune to the radiation…

Figure 60h

…and determined that the glory and grandeur of their civilisation must live on…

Figure 60g

…persuaded the remaining survivors to join him on his space vessel by flying into the source of the plague, what was designated as “the largest sun in the(ir) universe”.

Figure 60i

Galan’s crewmen were said to have all died.  At this point I’d suggest that this sun was the original source of vibranium and the space plague was caused by the mineral at its core increasing entropy which began destabilising the molecules within the cells of Taa’s inhabitants leading to planet-wide death.  I’d further suggest that just before Galan would also die from the vibranium radiation, the sun generated a final shockwave so massive it shattered the dimension, creating warps into pocket dimensions.  Because Galan was so close to the sun he took the full brunt of this shockwave and was thrown into one of these warps and was sent hurtling into our universe.  Having been in the direct path of the shockwave before being thrown into the warp, Galan absorbed so much vibranium energy he came out the other end having transformed into Galactus, whose hunger for planets is perhaps explained by his needing to feed an addiction to vibranium.  I’d further suggest that Galan’s crewmen did not die before he was thrown into the dimensional warp but survived to become the Mindless Ones whose singular drive is to breach the Dark Dimension’s great mystical barrier so they can access the warps into pocket universes in an effort to seek out stores of vibranium similar to Galactus, but on a smaller scale given they were not in the direct path of their sun’s final shockwave and so did not absorb its final burst of vibranium radiation.

Figure 60j

So yes, in my Grand Unified Theory this makes the realm that later became the Dark Dimension, the universe where Galactus originated.

Now that we’ve been back to the possible origins of the Marvel Universe, we find ourselves almost back at the beginning of this article and another Kirby creation, the source of mutation in the Marvel Universe the Terrigen Mists, those rays responsible for providing the Inhumans with their powers.  Terrigen means “earth-producing” which would suggest the Kree Sentry in Thor #147 was not telling the entire story…

Figure 68a

…and the mists were produced by them from extensive heating of some mineral on Earth; perhaps vibranium!?  This would appear to be a tenuous link to vibranium until one considers king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, whose exposure to the mists gave him a “sonic scream” capable of vibrating electrons to the extent that his merest whisper can level buildings.

Figure 68b

Then recall the metallic trim on Black Bolt’s costume looks like a V radiating from his body, which was perhaps a hint to the true source of his powers.

Figure 68c

Then consider the fork-shaped antenna that Black Bolt wore upon his brow since childhood enabled him to channel his powers in more directed, less destructive ways.  When shown here his channelled powers are mentioned as “deeply… corroding ALL metal…”

Figure 70d

…which couldn’t be anything but a blatant reference to the Antarctic variant of Vibranium, also known as Anti-Metal, and its ability to break “the molecular bondings of ALL other metals” (i.e. the ultimate corrosive), especially when revealed in another Kirby story of all places!

In addition, Black Bolt’s vow of silence due to the cataclysmic potential of his voice brings to mind Gateway’s own silence apparent during Claremont’s run.  So was Claremont attempting to suggest the ancient Aborigine had likewise taken a vow of silence due to similar capabilities of his voice caused by exposure to the vibranium mound in outback Australia?

Figure 69a

Figure 69

Might this further suggest Gateway’s bull-roarer acts in a similar fashion to Black Bolt’s tuning fork in that when he spins it he is disrupting electrons in their air, which in his case opened teletransportational wormholes in space?

Good enough for me to say ©J C. N 2013

Postscript: Now that I’ve done all the heavy lifting who wants to have a go at explaining why Roma chose this abandoned mining town, occupied by a band of sadistic, cybernetic super-criminals, to insert the X-Men after restoring them to life following their sacrifice at the conclusion of The Fall of the Mutants?  Was it a) so they could access advanced computer systems to detect problems and crises around the planet and the abilities of Gateway so they could respond accordingly, b) to help Gateway break the “geas” that bound him to Reavers, or c) to prevent the “outsign spirits” from spreading across the Dreamlands?

Post-postscript: Oh and you know what other mystery connecting Vibranium to Limbo leads me to after some brief musing?  The Singing Sword, Excalibur, and Avalon!  Which for some reason leads me to Prester John, whom after finding the fabled isle of Avalon…

Figure 61b

…and sitting in the Siege Perilous appeared to fall into a form of suspended animation, only to be found centuries later in a deep underground cavern beneath the African desert north of Wakanda by the Human Torch and Wyatt Wingfoot.

Figure 61a

So how might the mystery behind Prester John and Avalon tie into my revelations regarding Limbo and the origin of Vibranium?

Acknowledgements: Thanks go out to fnord12 of the Marvel Comics Chronology – for his continued assistance in compiling some of the more obscure comic panel scans here – Teebore of Gentlemen of Leisure, bipedal mammal of Estoreal, Richard Bensam, Rob Johnson of the Iron Man Library and Bad Man of Bad Haven for the remainder I required, in addition to comic book scholar and writer/ editor of the Unofficial Appendix to the Marvel Universe, Michael Hoskin, for compelling me to begin piecing together a worthwhile origin for Vibranium.  But my biggest thanks must go to the inimitable Jason Powell who here, moreso than any other blog post I’ve written previously, has made me begin to live up to his designation of me lo’ those many years ago as “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”.  Though I’m requesting if you’re out there in the blogosphere, Jason, that you now need to upgrade this description to “He Who Can create a Grand Unified Theory for the Marvel Universe Given Enough Time”;)

…Bruce Banner’s multiple personalities?

This Fix comes from long time Hulk fan, Deadfast Author and BAD HAVEN founder Mark ‘The Bad Man’ McCann.

0_ The Avengers new tv-spot with tons of hulk

Monstrous Origins

Since his inception The Incredible Hulk has been held up as an analogy for many things; the 60’s counter culture urge to rise up against repression – a reaction to the frustrations of war and the fear of nuclear side effects/ mutations and even a study on anger and justified violence. Stan Lee called the character ‘a golem’ in line with Jewish myth, and recalled Hulk as the Atomic Age Jekyll and Hyde.

But with so many dissonant personalities emerging over the years of his publication history it’s difficult to give a cohesive history of what exactly ‘Hulk’ really is when compared to his character history as an off-shoot of a gamma bomb experiment gone wrong and the fractured psyche of genius nuclear physicist Bruce Banner.

Figure 1: The different incarnations of Hulk from left - Gladiator Hulk, The Meastro, Gamma Irradiated Spider-Man, Joe Fixit, The Professor, House of M Hulk, The Green Scar

Figure 1: The different incarnations of Hulk from left – Gladiator Hulk, The Meastro, Gamma Irradiated Spider-Man, Joe Fixit, The Professor, House of M Hulk, The Green Scar

What we can agree on, is that from his initial appearance, although retconned and retconned again, Hulk emerged from the Gamma Bomb explosion of Banner’s own design a grey behemoth who would revert to Banner by sunrise, and Hulk again at sunset. This Hulk was different to the more commonly known version; a rampaging, monosyllabic, childlike engine of destruction.

And although the actual reasoning behind this change would be more one of simple editorial practicality (The grey colouring during his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #1 proved problematic; ‘resulting in different shades of gray, and even green, in the issue’), the effects of the later change to ‘Green’ for the character and ‘childlike’ to the personality would be the catalyst for a long list of personality changes that would result in one of the most seemingly schizophrenic characters in comics.

Figure 2: During the Hulk's first ever appearance he was coloured Grey

Figure 2: During the Hulk’s first ever appearance he was coloured Grey

Breaking Banner

The reasoning behind the many sides of Hulk was elaborated on by writer Bill Mantlo who took the reins of the Hulk series with issue #245 (1980), when the writer alluded to Bruce Banner’s child abuse at the hands of his violent father, who would be shown in later issues to go one step further in traumatizing his son, by murdering Bruce’s mother.

The many faces of Hulk are hypothesized as a side effect of this abuse, which would later under the writing tenure of Peter David (during his 12 year run from issue #331 – 1987) be diagnosed as Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Dissociative disorders including DID have been attributed to disruptions in memory caused by trauma and other forms of stress, but research on this hypothesis has been characterized by poor methodology and in some cases doesn’t add up. But it would make perfect sense that Banner, especially from his early appearance as a troubled Nuclear physicist working on a Gamma Bomb under the watchful, and somewhat aggressive eye of General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross would create a side personality, an aggressive alpha male personality composed of Banner’s smarts, and a cunning of his own, internally to combat his own insecurities.  Banner was in a difficult situation, with feelings for the General’s daughter Betty and overshadowed by two existing powerful male figures in her life – Ross and Major Glenn Talbot, Betty’s husband to be.

Figure 3: The grey hulk Joe Fixit was actually an early persona Banner had created as part of his DID

Figure 3: The grey hulk Joe Fixit was actually an early persona Banner had created as part of his DID

This personality Banner created – the Grey Hulk – who would later seemingly devolve into a rampaging green behemoth was the same ‘Joe Fixit’ Hulk from later issues (Incredible Hulk #324 onwards)  and I contend a product of Banner’s secret rage, inadequacy (Major Glenn Talbot was about engaged to the woman he loved, Betty Ross, General Ross’ daughter, and both Ross and Talbot were ‘real men’ and treated Banner with scorn) and lust (for Betty Ross).  Described as; cunning, crafty, hedonistic, arrogant, and distant, this Hulk persona, still in his inception was later suppressed by Banner using the gamma ray machine he creates to return his intelligence to Hulk’s body.

This alters Hulk’s colour to green and makes Banner weakly and sick when he reverts from his monstrous transformations. Overuse of this machine, which could be categorized as continual stress on Banners part, would later induce the better known Savage Hulk persona, the hulking monosyllabic beast he is best known for, and has been a continuous presence throughout Hulk’s publication history.

Figure 4: the savage hulk smashes

Figure 4: The Savage Hulk Smashes

But this persona, while best categorized by his catch-phrase ‘Hulk Smash’, was hunted by the US Army and served as an Avengers antagonist, yet more often than not expressed an interest in being left alone. The reasons for this I contend, are that while Banner may have been suffering from DID, his strongest human instincts, the ones wired for survival, are what causes the manifestation of this particular Hulk. And the reason that no matter how many times Hulk’s personalities change or evolve; when under extreme stress or experiencing traumatic external events, it seems the Savage Hulk emerges prevalent as the one aspect of Bruce Banner’s persona that he cannot keep suppressed; his innate human survival instinct.

This has been the case when Banner existed as The Grey Hulk, and later the Merged Hulk or Professor Hulks (an amalgamation of all 3 of his dissociative personalities, including Banner). Through his transformations Banner’s personalities found a way to emerge, but I contend that his transformation itself, is something that happens purely on an instinctual level, something that Banner has harnessed to varying degrees, but has never been fully able to control. This also helps explain why on the temporary occasions that Banner has managed to separate himself from Hulk it has nearly killed him and/or driven him temporarily mad.

Figure 5: Hulk and Banner separated has proved detrimental to both as individual entities

Figure 5: Hulk and Banner separated has proved detrimental to both as individual entities

This was also the case with his Hulk alter ego, when during one of these instances (manipulated by the ethereal villain Nightmare) Hulk emerged minus Banner as ‘Mindless Hulk’, an incarnation of Hulk, that without Banner to hold him in check, ran rampant and was completely impossible to control. Could it not be possible that ‘Mindless Hulk’ was simply Banner’s survival mechanism running rampant and without an anchor to hold it in check, thrashing out wildly in an attempt to relocate its host? This was similarly the case when Doc Samson separated Banner from Hulk and created an even less cognitive version of Hulk, who due to the separation from Banner eventually began to die, until reunited.

Figure 6: The mindless Hulk was virtually  impossible minus Banner

Figure 6: The mindless Hulk was virtually impossible minus Banner

It’s also seems to be obvious that without Banner as his anchor Hulk continues to run unchecked and further towards a form of critical mass. When separated during the Onslaught Saga, this time round Hulk’s strength grew exponentially greater, and he also began to leak radiation until he was restored with his Banner ‘anchor’. The suggestion is, that this time round as opposed to just dying from the separation, he might have actually exploded.

Human Instinct

But returning to the idea of Banners ‘Hulk’ transformations as an ‘Instinctual Reaction’ to gamma mutation, and the personalities as a side effect of this new form of expression, we should note that the instincts, best described as inborn complex patterns of behaviour that must exist in every member of the species and that cannot be overcome by force of will, are not just a reflex reaction to Banner’s external stress stimulus.

The absence of volitional capacity must not be confused with an inability to modify fixed action patterns as it seems Banner as a child was able to alter his natural instinct towards survival and anger, a possible inborn genetic trait passed on from his violent and abusive father, suppressing it enough that he would later develop great internal, unreleased rage and the manifestation of DID.

The Savage Hulk, most often compared to Bruce’s inner child, could thus be best described as Bruce’s survival instincts finally given release, in the form of a rampaging beast, fused with the child he was when he first learned how to suppress them.

Further questions might arise however, when we consider that Banner’s psyche has massive numbers of personalities seemingly suppressed within. Guilt Hulk, Devil Hulk, Dark Hulk, Shrapnel Hulk, The Maestro and many more are all persona’s that have been witnessed within Banner, and only some of whom have ever found an outlet.

Figure 7: Bruce Banner's repressed personalities were once glimpsed in a cave in his psyche

Figure 7: Bruce Banner’s repressed personalities were once glimpsed in a cave in his psyche

The reason only some have emerged may be down to the strength of those said persona’s abilities to override or learn beyond Banner’s initial ‘survival instinct’ transformation. And while the personas have been combined, have run loose, or in the case of the Dark Hulk, a seemingly hostile extra-dimensional possession, mixed with Banner’s own dark feelings, (and a possible forerunner to the Maestro persona) exiled using magic and psychic tactics (via Doctor Strange and Namor) the manifestation of Banner’s survival has always been a reversion to the childlike ‘Savage Hulk’; the suppressed survival instinct of Bruce Banner as a child, given voice through the child he locked away, and with an abnormal cellular structure inherited from his father’s exposure to radiation which enabled his unique physiology to harness the gamma radiation from his own bomb rather than be annihilated by it.

Figure 8: Hulk's transformation

Figure 8: Hulk transformation

No matter how much Banner’s DID personalities work around it (Joe Fixit, Maestro, Green Scar, The Professor etc.) the reason they will never retain the same dominance as ‘Savage Hulk’ is that without Savage Hulk, the ultimate expression of ‘fight’ instead of flight and survival through adaptation (advanced strength, Healing and Durability) Banner would return to a level of vulnerability his body has since rejected, and die. Thus Banners survival is ironically linked to a transformation that gives his instinct form, paired with the personality he suppressed that is least equipped to survive. An abused Bruce Banner as a boy.

Post Analysis:

Figure 9: Among Hulks already impressive ability to channel anger into almost limitless strength, he can also heal from any wound, is almost impervious to damage and has shown the ability to adapt to breathing underwater and survival in the complete vacuum of space. For all intents and purposes he is a evolutionary hyper-Adaptoid

Figure 9: Among Hulks already impressive ability to channel anger into almost limitless strength, he can also heal from any wound, is almost impervious to damage and has shown the ability to adapt to breathing underwater and survival in the complete vacuum of space. For all intents and purposes he is a evolutionary hyper-adaptoid

Hulk’s continued mantra ‘Hulk Is The Strongest One There Is’ also gives credence to the idea that Hulk is not only Banner’s survival mechanism in action, but by his sheer survival and subsequent mutation, a form of Darwinian evolution given unnatural possibility through science. Hulk is ‘the strongest one there is’ not only as a physical entity, but in his continued evolution and adaptability as the purest sense of ‘survival of the fittest’ given form. The fact that human survival hinges on our ability to out-think our surrounding dangers further builds on the idea that while Hulk is a creature of pure survival given physicality, it is the very human instinct, and subsequent psychological variance that empowers him.

…the origin of Rick Jones?

RickJonesSidekickFront_zps5cbb4895

Have you ever stopped to consider the strangely fortuitous life of Rick Jones?  To say he is at the right place at the right time is quite an understatement.  He has led such a charmed life that it begs the question is there more to it than simple coincidence?  Writer Jim Shelley thinks he has an explanation that explains Rick’s incredible good luck.  Borne out the dark, dismal days of the 2000’s era of comics, Jim and artist Pierre Villeneuve vowed to create comics that would hearken back to the glory days of Marvel and DC – comics that were bright and colourful, fast paced and fun.  They also felt that digital would be the wave of the future, so they made their comics available for free in cbr format on his website www.FlashbackUniverse.com.   That was back in 2005 when digital comics were dismissed as a mere novelty, but they have since grown into an entire industry.  As a result Flashback Universe comics have been adapted for both iPhone and Android platforms and more than 100,000 copies have been download from their site.  Currently, Jim and Pierre are working with a gaming studio to bring the Flashback Universe characters to game consoles as well as working on other publishing projects.  Now before we jump into Jim’s explanation, let’s refresh our memories with some of the more notable high points on the Rick Jones Timeline:

1962 – Somehow he slips by military police and sneaks onto a nuclear testing facility (whereupon he is the catalyst for the origin of the Hulk.)

Figure 01_Rick-Jones-Hulk

1963 – Sends out a random ham radio message that results in the formation of the Avengers

Figure 02_RJ-AvengersRadio

1964 – With absolutely no powers or training, becomes an honorary Avenger fighting alongside Captain America

Figure 03_avengers-RJ

1969 – Is “Drawn” to the Nega Bands which allow him to bond with Captain Marvel

Figure 04_RickFindsNegaBands

1971 – Somehow becomes a conduit for the Destiny Force which he uses to end the Kree/ Skrull War

Figure 05_RJ-DestinyForce

1984 – Teams up with Rom Spaceknight

Figure 06_RomAndRJ

1986 – Is cured of cancer by the Beyonder

Figure 07_Beyonder-rick_jones

1986 – Becomes a Hulk-like creature

Figure 08_RJ-HulkOut2

1994 – Marries Marlo Jones (who he will later bring back from the dead).   At their wedding, both Death and Mephisto will be in attendance.

Figure 09_RickMarriesMarlo

Let’s call that the first phase of Rick’s life. I’m going to try and condense the second phase here:

After that, Rick’s fate would have him assisting the Pantheon, Wolfsbane of X-Factor, Genis-Vell, the son of the original Mar-Vell and The Runaways.

During World War Hulk Rick is impaled in the chest and the last we see of him he is being loaded into an ambulance. The very next time we see him, he has escaped from a secret base in Alaska.

Currently, Rick has been transformed into an Abomination analogue called A-bomb by the supervillain team called The Intelligencia

Here’s what we know:

Rick doesn’t know much about his past.

We know this because when serial killer Jackie Shorr shows up in Hulk 390-391, Rick accepts her as his mom.

jackie2

We later discover that Shorr was supposedly a day care worker who worked at an orphanage Rick grew up in. She was fired for being mentally unstable and became obsessed with tracking down all the children she once cared for and killing them. Rick is captured by her and taken down to her basement which is filled with the withered corpses chained to the walls.

jackie3

After a battle with Marlo and Betty, Rick is rescued and taken to a mental institution.

Later, Shorr is released(?) from the mental institution because of a case of mistaken identity. She just happens to cross paths with a recent acquaintance of Rick Jones at a diner. She is eventually found out and stopped by Moondragon.

When Rick questions how Jackie managed to get the sealed adoption documents from the orphanage, her only reply is that she stole them because dangerous people were after her. She also mentions that she spent time in Europe hiding from “some men.”

Rick has some powerful untapped potential within himself

While associated with Genis, Rick encounters an older version of himself who has become a super-villain named Thanatos. Thanatos is obsessed with creating the “ultimate Rick Jones” but he is stopped by another incarnation of Rick who is wielding Thor’s hammer.

Figure 10_thanatos4

Questions:

How did a mentally unstable woman managed to stay undetected by the authorities for so many years? Her targets all had a very easy to see commonality (orphans from the same facility.) How did no one spot that when investigating the other missing persons cases?

  • Who were the “some men” Shorr had to flee America to hide from?
  • How did she escape her mental facility so easily?
  • What was Ultimate Rick Jones that Thanatos wanted to create?
  • Why would both Death and Mephisto up at Rick’s wedding?
  • How did Rick slip onto the military base during the Gamma bomb test?
  • How has been able to command the Destiny Force and Cosmic Awareness at various times in his life?

Here’s The Theory: Rick Jones is one of many bio engineered test subjects created by Arnim Zola using Moon Boy’s DNA during the American Operation Paperclip program.

Figure 11_ZolaMoonBoy

His latent psionic powers are the result of genetic tampering with the human race that goes all the way back to prehistoric times by a villain from the future.

To understand the secret origin of Rick Jones, we must look at the machinations of Michael Korvac aka The Enemy.

Figure 12_KorvacAvengers_177_02

When Korvac was originally discovered by the Collector, it was determined that he would one day be more powerful than either the Elders or the Eternals. The Collector sent his daughter to try and trick Korvac, but she fell in love with him instead. She would have undoubtedly revealed her father’s plans at that point. I suspect that is when Korvac realised he would have to take precautions against the Eternals and the Elders.

Korvac knew that his enemies might try to wipe out his bloodline starting with his first human ancestor, so he went even further back to the ape-like humanoids known as the Small Folk. He choose Moon Boy as the herald of his bloodline. Using his incredible cosmic powers, Korvac gave Moon Boy the power to subconsciously alter reality (much in the same way as Wanda’s Hex power works) which Moon Boy has often used to unwittingly travel through time and preserve his youth.

Moon Boy’s unique abilities did not go unnoticed by others however. In the Devil Dinosaur mini-series, he is captured and studied by aliens. This happened on numerous occasions usually ending with Moon Boy escaping. Most recently, he was captured and held in the custody of SHIELD until a rescue attempt by Stegron and Reptil (from Avengers Academy) returned him to the Savage Land only to be recaptured by Reed Richards.

Sidenote 1: The last appearance of Korvac was in Avengers Academy after they had just been involved in an adventure with Moon Boy. In that conflict a newly revived Carina aged all of the young heroes into older versions of themselves to fight Korvac. However, after the battle, she was unable to de-age one of them. Reptil. Coincidence? I think not.

Figure 13_MoonboyFF

How Arnim Zola found Moon Boy’s DNA we may never know, but it is possible it was among the notes, devices and other thing he found when he discovered the Deviants lab which set him on his career as a bio engineer. It is entirely possible that the Deviants had already started experimenting with Moon Boy’s DNA and Zola simply picked up from where they abandoned the project.

Sidenote 2: In Earth X, Moon Boy’s skeleton is discovered on the Blue Area of the Moon and it is revealed that he is an ancestor of Wolverine.

After World War II, as one of Germany’s top scientist, it seems likely that the American government would have tried to recruit him during Operation Paperclip. It’s also likely that his early experiments would not have been as ambitious as those Captain America discovered in the jungles of Central America.

I believe that Zola was asked/ allowed to create clones of Bucky Barnes (which explains why Rick Jones resembled Bucky so much.)   During this cloning process Zola mixed in the Moon Boy DNA (recognising it had had certain extraordinary recombinant properties) which resulted in a successful batch of Bucky clones.

While raising the clones in a government facility some of their latent psionic began to manifest. Jackie Shorr was a nurse in this facility. She underwent psionic training to protect herself from the children’s errant mental blasts. The training was crude but effective. As a result she became a bit insane. Later when Moondragon encountered Shorr, Moondragon finds herself unable to read Shorr’s mind.

As the clones grew older, their psionic powers seemed to dissipate. Still, the government kept an eye on them occasionally calling one or two of them in for testing and medical check ups. As a result, military police become accustomed to the sight of Bucky Barnes looking teens driving in and out of military gates. It is because of this that Rick Jones is able to enter the military base when a Gamma bomb is about to be tested.

As time goes by, and the government catches wind of how many times Rick Jones has been at the centre of some major super hero origin or battle, it becomes apparent that his psionic powers are altering chance. News of Jones using the Destiny Force to end the Kree/ Skrull war only makes matters worse.

The government decides to take drastic steps.  A clandestine program to brainwash the already mentally unstable Jackie Shorr into killing the Bucky Barnes clones is begun. Aided quietly by the government, Shorr begins capturing and killing the clones. She is quite successful until she encounters Jones whose latent powers cause all her efforts to fail.

After the Shorr project failed, the government has taken on a nervous wait and see approach to the Jones Problem.  Even higher powers (Mephisto and Death) are interested in Jones. While they do not realise that his powers stem from Korvac’s bloodline, they know he has untold potential and they are a little afraid of him. It was this potential God Jones that Thanatos was trying to create. In that timeline, it is possible that Rick Jones discovered the truth about his origins and was able to unlock his powers.

Since Avengers Disassembled until Avengers vs X-Men, Rick Jones seems to have fallen off the map of government concerns.  It is possible he is no longer a cosmic level threat.

Unless there is something they don’t want you to know.