the origin of Longshot’s family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it’s still up in the air.

Or is it really?

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

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

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

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

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

…while he appeared completely clueless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and Alfi great accuracy with weaponry!

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

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

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

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

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

The

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

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Mister Sinister’s origin?

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

Figure 01_UX212_MrSinister

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

Figure 02_UX213_Flashback

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

Figure 03_UX221_Sinister1stappearance1

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

Figure 04_XF39_Mister Sinister dies

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

Figure 05_CXM41-2

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

Figure 06_CXM41

…and whom Claremont intended to actually be Mister Sinister.

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

Figure 07a_FACP03Figure 07b_FACP04

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

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

Figure 08a_UXM02Figure 08b_UXM02Figure 08c_UXM02

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 09a_CXM41

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

Figure 09b_CXM 041

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

Or so it would seem at a cursory glance!

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

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

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

Figure 10b_XFAC39

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

Figure 10a_CXM41

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

Figure 11_XMF07

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 12_UXM221_Mr. Sinister

But how!

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

Figure 13_XMF01-03Figure 11_XMF07

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

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

Figure 14_A102_Vision

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

Figure 15_UXM241

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

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

Figure 16_XFA039

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

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

Figure 17_MTU69

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

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

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

Figure 18_XFAC35_Pods

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

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

Figure 19_UXM239

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

Figure 20_UXM239

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

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

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

Figure 15_UXM241

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 23_UXM241

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

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

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

Figure 24_UXM12

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

Figure 25_UXM13

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

Figure 26a_UXM12

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

Figure 26b_UXM12

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

Figure 27_UXN Annual 11

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

Figure 28_UXM11

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

So could Cyttorak be an anti-mutant force here…

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

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

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

Figure 29_UXM12

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

How so?

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

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

Figure 30_Strange Tales 125, 126, 128

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

Figure 31_Strange Tales 143

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

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

Figure 32_UXM243

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

Figure 33_UXM243

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

Figure 34a_UXM243Figure 34b_UXM243

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

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

Figure 35_UXM13

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

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

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

Figure 36a_CXM41Figure 36b_CXM41

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

Figure 37a_UXM241Figure 37b_XFA39Figure 37c_XFA39Figure 37d_XFA39

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

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

Figure 38_Cyttorak

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

Figure 37_AWC64

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

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

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 reason for the Reed Richards’ Rocketship?

fantastic_four_cosmic-rays-112Today’s guest post comes from Justin Zyduck, who used to write about superhero comics at the Adventures of Wyatt Earp in 2999 and was a semiregular guest contributor to Mightygodking dot com from 2009-2010. Since then he’s had two children and has retired from active blogging, but he still thinks about comics all the dang time even if he’s not writing about them. These days he writes and performs music as half of Madison, Wisconsin-based indie pop duo Evening Afternoon. He’s also published some short horror fiction under the name Justin Pollock and still works at prose in fits and starts.

“If Reed Richards is so smart, why did he take his girlfriend and her kid brother on the first test of his experimental rocket?”

Everyone from J. Jonah Jameson to Jay Leno has posed that question, or some variant of it, over the years.  Professional and amateur pundits alike have long debated the reason behind Susan and Johnny Storm’s presence on the historic flight that created the Fantastic Four. Feature films and other fictionalized versions of their exploits tend to portray the Storms as fellow scientists or astronauts to Reed Richards and Ben Grimm.  But, in reality, they had little, if any, training in those fields.  Sue Storm (now Richards) holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre, and Johnny Storm was, by all reports, an average-to-bright but underachieving high school student at that time.

When faced with the question himself, Richards plays it off charmingly.  “Even before we were the Fantastic Four, we were a team,” he said at a press conference shortly after their public debut.  It’s a sentiment he’s repeated many times since. “Every risk we took, every success we celebrated, we shared equally. Sue and Johnny are two of the bravest individuals I’ve ever known and – with no disrespect intended to the highly trained and dedicated astronauts in the international space-exploration community – there’s no one I’d have rather had with me.”

Beyond this seeming non-explanation, we can only speculate. Frustratingly, due to the nature of the U.S. government’s funding and involvement, official explanations and documentation on the Richards rocket project have been largely classified. In most cases we must depend on the licensed Fantastic Four comic books as primary sources.  However, whether through deliberate or accidental miscommunication between the Fantastic Four and the creative teams behind the comic – or perhaps even for matters of simple artistic license – details are often inconsistent.

Indeed, the very nature of the rocket itself has been inconsistently portrayed over the years. The flight was described as a mission “to the stars” in the debut issue of the Fantastic Four comic book (Vol. 1, #1.)  Later retellings frequently speak only of a nebulous “spaceflight” that may or may not have involved a “hyperdrive” or “star drive.” Furthermore, the first issue presented Richards’ decision to launch the rocket without official clearance as a spur-of-the-moment impulse because “conditions are right tonight.”  Only later did Vol. 3, #11 reveal that Richards effectively stole his own ship after the government withdrew funding from the project. When we don’t even know why Richards himself undertook that flight, is it any wonder that researchers and journalists have had difficulty reading between the lines to figure out what exactly the Storms were doing there?

But what if, instead of trying to determine what Richards is not saying about his friends’ involvement, we were to focus on what he is saying? Perhaps it’s a dead end to read such statements as the one quoted above as merely some kind of media-friendly deflection. What if we take him at his word? A man goes into space with his three closest friends. What would it suggest about the mission?

In following that question to its logical conclusion, we may discover not only why the Storms were on that rocket, but the purpose of the flight itself. And, quite unexpectedly, it may also lead us to the secret behind one of the other great and terrible marvels of the modern age: the so-called “Incredible Hulk.”

*

Let’s begin with one of the few details that remains consistent in almost every account: the Fantastic Four gained their powers because the Richards rocket was insufficiently shielded from cosmic radiation.  What was the nature of that radiation? “Cosmic rays” are not in fact unusual in outer space.  Their effects have been known, studied, and guarded against in the shielding of conventional spacecraft for years. Why, then, was the Richards rocket not so protected? Critics of Richards cite this seeming negligence on his part – negligence paid for by Ben Grimm in his transformation into “The Thing.”

Others, however, rush to defend Richards. On a special edition of the TV news magazine Lateline, Dr. Henry Pym – a leading biochemist and founding member of the Avengers under identities such as Giant Man and Yellowjacket – stated the incident was “a freak accident. No one could have predicted it. A cosmic ray storm on the surface of the sun produced particles that reacted with the star drive” (Vol. 3, #543.) This statement suggests a singular, anomalous incident that Richards was not and could not have been prepared for, which would seem to absolve Richards at least partially of blame.

The “freak accident” theory, however, while occasionally repeated elsewhere, can’t be entirely accepted because the effects of the cosmic rays have been reproduced. Specifically, rogue scientist Ivan Kragoff – alias the Red Ghost – exposed himself and his trained “Super-Apes” to what would appear to be the same type of cosmic rays, as did the terrorist group known as the U-Foes. Both teams traveled in spacecraft even less shielded than the Richards rocket for the deliberate purpose of gaining cosmic ray-derived superhuman powers. The Fantastic Four themselves have re-encountered the same or similar cosmic rays on subsequent flights.  During the account of their first battle with the extraterrestrial Skrull race, a spacecraft containing the Fantastic Four passes through a “radiation belt” that temporarily cures Grimm of his condition.  It is suggested that this same belt gave them their powers in the first place (Vol. 1, #2.)  Today, it is commonly held that this radiation belt was the Van Allen belt, two bands of trapped particles held in place by the Earth’s magnetic field.  At least one account of the Fantastic Four’s origin, in Vol. 3, #60, explicitly names the Van Allen belt as the source of their powers.

We can even resolve the Van Allen belt explanation with some of Pym’s comments.  As recently as 2013, space probes detected a third radiation belt, presumably created by unusual solar activity and apparently destroyed by a subsequent shock wave from the sun.  A “cosmic ray storm on the surface of the sun” as Pym describes might indeed have created an additional, temporary radiation belt with unexplained properties – a “fantastic belt,” if you will – that interacted with the Richards party to alter their genetic structure.  A reaction with a “star drive,” however, seems unlikely given that Kragoff and the U-Foes’ ships would almost certainly not have had the same hyperdrive on board.

In any event, we can likely pinpoint the cause of the mutation as abnormal, but by no means unique, activity in the Van Allen belt.  Such fantastic belts may be created and destroyed all the time.  The ones that affected Kragoff and the U-Foes might have been different belts that shared a common origin with the one that empowered the Fantastic Four. At the time of Richards’ flight, however, the existence and effects of these fantastic belts would have been unknown.  So, it is quite possible that the “insufficient shielding” of the rocket might have been perfectly sufficient if not for the unusual Van Allen belt activity.

*

Still, there is the detail, again unusually consistent among accounts, that Ben Grimm warned Reed Richards about the shielding on the rocket. Many underestimate Grimm due to his gruff layman’s persona, often portrayed referring to Richards’ inventions as “doohickeys” and “whoziwhatzis.”  But, his credentials in the aerospace field are not to be sniffed at.  It does seem unusual that he would have been so incredibly right and Richards so incredibly wrong about the shielding. In fact, why would anyone build a rocket with anything less than the standard amount of shielding?

But perhaps the shielding not being “standard” was precisely the point. Radiation shielding is bulky and expensive, and any spaceship traveling to interstellar space would require even more than conventional spacecraft. Seeking to get around this, Richards may well have used unconventional shielding. Scientists today have proposed spaceships that generate magnetic fields to block cosmic radiation; Richards may have beaten them to this notion several years ago.  Therefore, Grimm’s concern in Vol. 1, #1 that “[they] haven’t done enough research into the effect of cosmic rays” may not have been referring to the cosmic rays themselves, but rather the ability of this unconventional shielding to successfully block it.

*

Because we tend to focus on the failings of Richards’ rocket and the seeming impracticality of bringing largely untrained astronauts aboard, we tend to overlook the true marvel of its engineering: the very fact that it could be successfully operated by civilians.

It was eventually revealed that Richards and Grimm were originally intended to pair with two trained astronauts identified as Burroughs and Hennessey, although those might be pseudonyms employed by Marvel Comics for legal reasons.  Vol. 3, #11 shows that these two were pulled from the mission, along with the government’s funding. Yet, on short notice, Richards, Grimm, and the Storm siblings launched the rocket without clearance, without ground support, fast enough to take off “before the guard can stop them” (Vol. 1, #1.)  Then, in the worst possible conditions, they navigated the rocket safely back to Earth.  They achieved all this despite half their number having effectively zero astronautics training.

We can attribute their takeoff and survival to luck, or we can ask a more compelling question: what if the Richards rocket was designed to be operated by untrained astronauts? Richards’ decision to include the Storms on the mission would no longer be a massive mistake, but instead a test of the rocket’s intended function.

This question, however, seems to muddle the purpose of the mission at first glance. By itself, a spacecraft that can be launched and operated by a mix of professional and amateur astronauts with no outside support is a lofty goal.  Faster-than-light travel is even more wildly ambitious. Combining these two parameters makes the job exponentially more difficult. Why would Richards need to build an interstellar spaceship that requires minimal training?

*

On the same edition of Lateline where Pym described the incident in space, Dr. Herbert Eagle, former Dean of Men at Eastern State University, is quoted as saying, “When [Richards] proposed a practical hyperdrive… financial backers fought for the opportunity to invest in his prototype.” Yet, ultimately, the project was funded and pulled at the discretion of the U.S. government. With the private sector champing at the bit to fund Richards’ project, why was the government interested enough to foot the bill themselves, and again, why was a hyperdrive and the ability to be operated with minimal training a necessity?

It was only after Reed Richards’ encounter with the extraterrestrial creature known as Gormuu, self-proclaimed “Warrior of Kraalo,” was declassified and published in comic book form (Vol. 1, #271) that we could begin connecting these dots. The account revealed how, some time before making his flight with the future Fantastic Four, Richards helped defeat this would-be conqueror through ingenuity and quick thinking. The incident strengthened his resolve to complete his in-progress “experimental star-drive rocket” because “this experience with Gormuu has shown [the] universe to be more dangerous than anyone ever suspected.”  It seems probable, even likely, that the U.S. government agreed with Richards’ assessment, and that they agreed to finance the rocket not for research or exploration, as Richards intended, but for defense purposes: as a prototype for the next generation of military vehicle, one that could engage extraterrestrial threats.

Here, the unusual requirements of the rocket start to make sense. It would be prohibitively expensive to create a military fleet of conventional spacecraft with heavy radiation shielding, each of which would require massive, highly trained crews on the ground and in the air just to take off and land. But, what about a spaceship, with cost-effective magnetic shields, operated by one or two experienced astronauts that would allow additional, minimally-trained personnel to perform other functions, perhaps even combat?  Whatever Richards’ original goals for faster-than-light travel, such a ship creates compelling military implications.

Why, then, would the government abandon this idea? In fact, they might not have, at least not completely. Shortly after the Richards’ flight, a lower-profile but still very unusual space launch was undertaken by Col. John Jameson – not from NASA’s usual launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, but just outside New York City.  This launch could take place close to a major metropolitan center, with relatively little preparation time.  Jameson was not even in the rocket fifteen minutes before launch! Perhaps this unique launch received so little attention because it was overshadowed by a malfunction with the rocket and its subsequent rescue by the burgeoning vigilante Spider-Man, then known largely for his television appearances and live stunt shows. But might that rocket have been a derivative of Richards’ technology? Did the government steal Richards’ designs and then shut down his program in favor of a homegrown one? Richards might have been uncomfortable with his work being used for explicit military purposes.  His own subsequent work, after all, has largely been focused on exploration, with superhuman combat used only when needed and as a last resort.

*

We can make an even wilder speculation here, an intriguing speculation which has never been proposed before now. Consider the other unusual major military project undertaken at around the same time as the Richards project.  Just what was Dr. Robert Bruce Banner working on in the New Mexico desert before the accident that transformed him into the Hulk?

If the Richards rocket was top secret, Banner’s project was doubly so. The official story, as it was originally disseminated, was that Banner was studying gamma radiation for medical or genetic research.  Some sources or adaptations continue to use that explanation, undoubtedly because it makes Banner a more sympathetic figure. But today, we know that Banner was actually working on a gamma-powered weapon, although its purpose has never been made clear.

A “gamma bomb” would likely be considerably more powerful and considerably more deadly than any conventional nuclear weapon in history. The utility of such a weapon seems limited: most nuclear weapons research focuses on variable yield rather than just a bigger payload.  Whatever your political and ethical feelings about weapons of mass destruction, harnessing this highly unusual radiation for a bomb that could only sanely be conceived of as a “use only in case of Armageddon” deterrent would seem to be an egregious waste of a potentially world-changing form of energy.

But what if the gamma bomb was never meant to be used in defense or offense against another nation on Earth? What if it was a weapon designed to be used against Kraalo, or the other hostile civilizations of the universe we were only just beginning to encounter? What kind of deployment system would such a weapon require?  In light of the Fantastic Four’s reputation as peaceful ambassadors representing humankind at its finest and most high-minded, it is chilling to consider that in other circumstances, the Richards rocket might have been used as an interplanetary Enola Gay carrying a gamma-powered Little Boy.

…the Origin of Doom 2099 (or “The Fate of Doctor Doom”)?

In this special guest post, Victor Cardigan, admin of the 2099Bytes Facebook page and owner of a fan-site dedicated to 2099, gives you his thoughts on Doom 2099’s true identity.

In the year 2099, mega-corporations rule everything. They run the United States, with each of the mega-corp CEO’s ruling their own slice of the country. Mega-Corps such as Alchemax, Stark-Fujikawa, Pixel, and D/Monix, to name a few, serve as the primary antagonists in the 2099 books.

There are no heroes in 2099, at least not at first. The heroes we know – the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men – are all gone after the end of the Age of Heroes. Exactly how that age ended is shrouded in mystery. The world of 2099 suffers from a “cultural amnesia.” Only snippets of the Heroic Age remain, distorted by the passage of time.

When Marvel launched the 2099 universe in 1992, it included four characters: Spider-Man, Punisher, Ravage, and Doom. Ostensibly, Doom 2099 was the only character implied to have a direct connection to the original.  In fact, he believed himself to be the original Doctor Doom. Given Doom’s penchant for time travel, a technological capability of his since his very first appearance in Fantastic Four #5, it seemed reasonable that this Doom was the genuine article.

But, writer John Francis Moore threw readers a curve ball in Doom 2099 #1, planting the seed of doubt when Doom 2099 faced his first opponent, Tiger Wylde.  Unmasked, Doom 2099 was revealed to be a young man sporting an unscarred face – definitely not the original. He was also definitely not a Doombot, since Tiger Wylde burned his face away, leaving him to bleed all over the office carpet. Adding to the doubts about his identity, Doom 2099 suffered from amnesia and could not account for his whereabouts prior to his sudden arrival in 2099.

figure-01Despite these clues, Doom 2099 clearly had extensive knowledge that only the real Doctor Doom could have. For example, he knew the true purpose of an amulet he gave to Boris, his longtime friend and ally.

Writer John Francis Moore teased readers with more details surrounding Doom 2099’s past in issue #2.  There, we learned that Doom apparently outlived allies and enemies alike, surviving the end of the Age of Heroes. Doom, however, was still human, and age took its toll on his health. His friend Boris, apparently deceased, was replaced by Damon, who attended to his declining health.

Despite his triumph, Doom became convinced that shadowy wraiths were subverting his empire. In order to rout them, Doom “hurled himself again into the void.”

figure-02Another fragment of his past was revealed in Doom 2099 #3, where we learned that Doom’s attempt to bring unity and vision resulted in the destruction of a city or cities. Accompanied by his servant Damon, Doom concluded that to restore order he must leave. He knew where he would find answers, but readers were left to ponder where Doom went. All we knew for sure is that after his journey, whatever the outcome, he ended up in 2099.

figure-03These questions were tabled until Doom 2099 #19, when Doom 2099 received a vision that made him doubt his own identity. He saw another man’s face reflected in a mirror. He saw himself seemingly tortured by the “real” Doctor Doom.

figure-04Later, in issue #21, Doom 2099 received further evidence that there was another Victor von Doom in the mad ranting and ravings of Christian L’Argent. L’Argent, an Alchemax employee gone AWOL, traveled to the Savage Land in order to escape the all-seeing eyes of the Shadows who truly rule the world above and beyond the powers of the mega-corps.  L’Argent identified Doctor Doom as one of these Shadows.

figure-05The quest for the truth about his identity led Doom 2099 to the island of Myridia, a nexus of information ruled by General Tibor Czerny. There, Doom 2099 learned that General Czerny had a son, Erik. Erik disappeared fourteen years ago, obsessed with finding the Shadows he believed were responsible for the “political and social crises of recent years.”

figure-06In issue #25, Doom 2099 learned that 14 years earlier, in 2085, Erik Czerny was captured by one of the shadows he was chasing: Margaretta von Geisterstadt. Margaretta also happened to be the lover of another of these shadows: Victor von Doom. Margaretta and Doom played games, deadly games, against each other. Margaretta’s most recent scheme ended with Doom being severely wounded. She then placed Doom in a regenerative bubble to be healed. Meanwhile, she brainwashed Erik into believing he was the real Doctor Doom until the healed Doom was ready. This healing process would take fourteen years. Once he was ready, she unleashed him with Erik’s memories mixed with his own incomplete ones into the year 2099.

This “origin,” however, left some questions unanswered. Certainly it remains an open question if Doom 2099 is indeed the real Doom. Margaretta, a brilliant geneticist, could easily have “grown” her own Doctor Doom. L’Argent suggested as much during the Savage Land incident. There is also the question of character: how did the Doctor Doom we know evolve into Doom 2099?

After Doom 2099 was cancelled, I still wondered how Doctor Doom became Doom 2099. Although I believe them to be the same man, they are clearly the same man at two drastically different points in their life. The younger Doctor Doom is still fueled by his desire to destroy the Fantastic Four and rule the world.  Doom 2099 wants primarily to safeguard his homeland, Latveria. If that means taking over the world and making it a better place, so be it. But based on what we see in Doom 2099 #25, Doom decided at some point to leave Latveria and rule the world from the shadows. How? Why? When?

I propose that Doctor Doom made the choice to withdraw from the world and rule as a shadow king after two life-altering encounters with his own future. The first encounter was in Iron Man #250. That story showed Doctor Doom transported to the year 2093, a mere six years prior to 2099. He met and killed his future self, finding him a pathetic shadow of Doom’s former self. The Doom of 2093 was more robot than man. He lived only by virtue of the mechanics in his armor. Doom swore that this would not be his future.

Yes, at the end of Iron Man #250, Merlin erased both Iron Man’s and Doctor Doom’s memories of the events which transpired. However Iron Man: Legacy of Doom showed Tony Stark breaking through Merlin’s spell to recall the events of Legacy of Doom. I propose that Doom could similarly break through the spell and recall the events of Iron Man #250 at a later date.

figure-07The second encounter took place in the pages of Doom 2099 itself. Issue #43 tells the story of how Doom 2099 traveled to the year 1996. During his trip, he met his past self. After learning of his failed conquest of America and the subsequent destruction of Latveria, Doctor Doom once again denied this would be his future.

figure-08I propose these two encounters had a profound effect on Doctor Doom. They gave him important information about his future and informed his decisions on how to extend his life – and how to live it. From both encounters he learned that by the 2090s, he would still be trying to take over the world.

Remember, Doctor Doom has successfully taken over the world on a number of occasions. Two things always happen.  One, he gets bored.  (See the graphic novel Avengers: Emperor Doom and the two-part story Super-Villain Team-Up #14/Champions #16 for examples.)  Two, he is overthrown.

I propose that at a future date, a unique solution occurs to him. Instead of conquering the world publically, he will conquer the world in secret and become its shadow king. Thus, Doctor Doom leaves Latveria, possibly leaving a Doombot in charge, or maybe Kristoff.  Doctor Doom moves into the shadows to do his work, and he succeeds.

Doctor Doom quickly realizes that by removing himself from the scene, he can assert greater control over the world. Being in the shadows has its benefits. For instance, no one is trying to overthrow him, because they don’t know he’s really in charge. Also, he need not become bored with the daily drudgery that comes with being ruler of the world.

In time, he discovers he is not alone in the shadows. There are other such shadow kings – possibly Vulcann, Essex, and the Shaper’s Guild, all mentioned by John Francis Moore at the end of X-Men 2099. These Shadows are a loose cabal who do not exactly work together. In fact, they vie to wrest control of the world from each other. These Shadows, including Doom, push the world’s buttons from behind the scenes. It was their machinations that ignited the Pollution Wars which erupted between elected governments and the giant trans-national corporations. It was the hand of the Shadows which pulled the strings of the ruling mega-corps to hide advanced technology from the public. The world is their chessboard. Hidden from public view, Doom is no longer a piece on the board but one of the players moving the pawns.

In the shadows, Doctor Doom meets a woman, Margaretta von Geisterstadt, whose intelligence is matched only by her cunning. She is a master player in the chess game of the Shadows. Where she comes from is not important. She is the last of her people, as her name implies: von Geisterstadt = of Ghost Town. She lost everything in her past because of events completely out of her control. To make up for this lack of control, she sought total control of the world.  She has attained this, arguably, as a Shadow Queen.

This brings us to the second part of my proposal. I posit that the “cancer” which gnaws at Doctor Doom in the flashback from Doom 2099 #2 was not a preoccupation with the Shadows subverting his empire.  That was merely Erik Czerny’s memories bleeding into Doom’s. Rather, it was a real cancer.

What caused this illness? Take your pick from all the various energies Doom has exposed his body to over the years.  His body has held the power cosmic (stolen from the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four #57), the power of the Beyonder (Secret Wars #10), the power of Galactus (Fantastic Four World’s Greatest Comics Magazine #10), the power of a Watcher (Fantastic Four #375), and the Life Force (Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #7.)  A line of dialogue in Doom 2099 #43 could be interpreted as evidence of this future cancer. Doom 2099’s final warning to his younger self was, “But know this, for every victory you savor, there will be a loss that scars you.”

A human body was never meant to hold or endure being exposed to such energies. I propose that as the Age of Heroes ends and Doom survives triumphantly, his body finally succumbs to the years of torment he has put it through.  Never one to lie down and die, Doom seeks options to extend his life. However, Doom is acutely aware he must be careful of the choices he makes. At all costs he wants to avoid the future he saw in Iron Man #250.

Having vowed to change this future, and seeing that technology alone will not save him, Doom attempts to restore his health through mystical means. He returns to the place of his “birth” and attempts a “rebirth.” Doom travels to the Himalayas and visits the hidden order of monks who forged his first armor.

In a repeat of what Dr. Strange once did for him during the Infinity Gauntlet story (Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #34,) Doom attempts to heal himself in the furnace of his birth as Doctor Doom. Unfortunately, the restorative qualities of the flames are not enough to completely cure him.  They only stall his death. Doom leaves to continue his search for a cure, but not alone.  As seen in the Doom 2099 #2 flashback, he takes with him one of the monks, Damon, who administers his medicine.

figure-09For his cure, Doom turns to an unlikely source: one of the Shadows. Doom has always been drawn to powerful women like Morgan Le Fey, Storm, and Dorma.  It is not surprising he was drawn to Margaretta. Margaretta is likewise drawn to Doom because, in his weakened state, he is a man she can dominate.  Just look at her style of dress in the flashback in Doom 2099 #25 if you need evidence that this is her type of thing. Margaretta, a master geneticist, offers Doom a cure for his illness. He promptly accepts. In this way, Necrotek’s tease about Margaretta in Doom 2099 #13 comes true: her “love” redeems him. But how does it curse him?

figure-10A “cured” Doom begins an ongoing relationship with Margaretta. But, theirs is not a flowery romance. It is a game of chess, with the whole world as their chessboard. We know of Doom’s penchant for chess games from tales like Fantastic Four Special, Master of Kung-Fu #59-60, and Strange Tales #167. Doom and Margaretta’s games, like those of all who lurk in the shadows, shake and move events on a global scale.

However, by 2085, it becomes clear that Margaretta’s cure is not as permanent as they thought. Doom’s condition begins to deteriorate once more. Margaretta concludes that in order to heal Doom once and for all, she requires a “clean” genetic sample of Doom. She needs a sample not tainted by the energies he exposed himself to in his public quest to rule the world during the Age of Heroes.

Doom plans a journey into his own past to obtain the required sample. However, by doing this, he is inserting himself once more onto the chessboard at the mercy of Margaretta’s games. The journey into the past is a trap. Doom’s trip is diverted into a time corridor where Doom is forced to revisit his worst defeats, over and over again. The arduous flight through time ends with Doom’s arriving back at his citadel in the Pacific nearly dead.

This brings us full circle to the events depicted in Doom 2099 #25 where Margaretta finds a good use for Erik Czerny while healing Doom for her next game. She mixes Doom’s memories with Erik’s and erases some of his own memories before sending him out into the world of 2099.  This represents her best challenge yet for her lover. Doom, of course, overcomes her obstacles and wins the game. He is, after all, Doom.

figure-11figure-12

…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.

…X-Men Forever

This post comes from G. Kendall who began his blog Not Blog X to answer a simple question: Were X-Men comics in the ’90s as bad as you think?  The focus eventually began to shift to all mainstream comics from the ’90s, leading him to review everything from Spider-Man’s clone saga to the Archie TMNT series.  Over the years his site has been linked on major comics sites like CBR, The Comics Journal, Newsarama and even the New York Times’ pop culture blog.  Amazingly, ’90s comics haven’t killed him yet, but they have tried very hard at times.

X-Men Forever debuted in 2009 as the latest Chris Claremont X-project. The premise was simple but also intriguing: what if Claremont never left the X-Men in 1991? Claremont’s abrupt departure from the X-Men titles after his historic run of over fifteen years seemed unthinkable to the core fan base at the time. Now, years later, readers had a chance to see what could, or if you’re a certain type of fan, should have happened next.

X-Men 01 1991Hopes were high, but as soon as the preview pages for X-Men Forever #1 were released, Internet Outrage had officially begun. The next chronological issue of Claremont’s run would’ve been X-Men (vol. 2) #4, an early entry in the “merged team” era of the titles that featured an X-Men cast consisting of over a dozen characters. The teams were divided into Blue and Gold squads, with each squad receiving a separate title dedicated to their exploits. X-Men Forever #1 opens with no Blue or Gold squads, just a single group of X-Men that’s missing several established members of the team, circa Claremont’s final issue.

A logical assumption can be made that the other cast members are on a mission and that Claremont never intended for the Blue and Gold squads to have static line-ups. Not that these words were ever spoken aloud in the series, of course, but it’s a painless No-Prize explanation. But, there is a larger problem for the continuity-minded reader. Shadowcat and Nightcrawler, two characters written off years earlier to appear in the British-themed spinoff Excalibur, are now members of the team. A line or two indicates that Excalibur still exists, but what are these two characters doing here? How could this possibly be the X-Men (vol. 2) #4 the readers never got to see?

X-Men_Forever_1_coverThe real reason: a decision was made at some point in the development of X-Men Forever to keep the cast relatively small and not to dwell on every character who should hypothetically be an X-Man. That means around half of the cast is dropped, and two of Claremont’s favorite characters that he hasn’t used in ages pop up as new/old members of the team. Broadly speaking, this is a defensible position, even though the cast will soon balloon out of control with characters that weren’t X-Men in 1991. The execution, however, undermines the premise of the series. X-Men Forever #1 is clearly not the next issue of the Claremont canon, and the questions raised from the awkward transition are never adequately addressed.

Magneto memorialLet’s find a way to get to the starting place of X-Men Forever #1 without causing any continuity headaches. How would I fix the questions of who should be where? I’ll begin with the cast as it exists in X-Men Forever #1: Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Beast, Storm, Jean Grey, Gambit, and Shadowcat. Nightcrawler and Shadowcat are in America for Magneto’s memorial service, as established in X-Men Forever Alpha, and are now considering rejoining the team. Fair enough. Who is missing at this point, following X-Men (vol. 2) #3? Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, and Psylocke haven’t been accounted for. Plus, the mansion’s support staff, Banshee and Forge, is missing. We can’t forget Jubilee, who was last seen in the Muir Island Saga storyline. Her whereabouts during X-Men (vol. 2) #1-3 remain unknown. Future issues of X-Men Forever hint that Psylocke has joined Excalibur, and we later discover that Colossus has returned to Russia to work as a government-sanctioned superhero. Fair enough, again. But that leaves no explanation for Iceman, Archangel, Banshee, Forge, and Jubilee. Where could they have disappeared between issues?

My solution: Australia. Specifically, the deserted outback town populated by the X-Men from Uncanny X-Men #229-#251.

Australian BaseWhen last seen in Chris Claremont’s canon (Uncanny X-Men #269), the X-Men’s outback base had been overtaken by the Reavers. The last X-Man at the location was Rogue, who emerged in her old room after using the Siege Perilous to escape Master Mold. The rest of the X-Men were gone, following the events of Uncanny X-Men #251, which had Psylocke tricking the other team members to disappear through the Siege Perilous in order to avoid a fatal battle with the Reavers. Rogue found herself in enemy territory, fleeing from the Reavers. She promised Gateway that she would find the X-Men and return to help him, as she absorbed his powers and teleported far away. That’s a promise that subsequent writers quickly forgot.

Rogue - Master Mold269-GatewayThe next time we see the outback base in the mainstream continuity (Uncanny X-Men #281,) Gateway is still a prisoner of the Reavers. The X-Men have found the time to defeat the Shadow King, reassemble the team with the members of X-Factor, and rebuild their mansion in Salem Center. But, they never got around to helping poor Gateway. What if, in the Forever continuity, Rogue didn’t forget about her promise? I posit that after the united X-teams battle with the Shadow King, Rogue explains the situation in the outback to her teammates. Their response would not be to sit around and do nothing. It would be an all-out mutant assault on the Reavers! Gateway is rescued, the Reavers are defeated, and the X-Men have control of their former base once again.

What if the months spent rebuilding the mansion were also spent reclaiming the Australian base? So, where did Iceman, Archangel, Banshee, and Forge disappear to? They split their time between Salem Center and Australia, thanks to Gateway’s teleportation powers. What are they doing there? My theory is that they’re training the next generation of young mutants. That’s where Jubilee’s been the entire time: she is the first student of the All-New, All-Secret Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.

While the school in Salem Center is in fact a home for well-educated adults, the real Xavier school is in a secret ghost town in Australia. What better place to hide the next generation of mutants from a world that fears and hates them? The geography is almost impossible to reach, protecting the school from intruders, while Gateway’s teleportation powers grant easy access for the mutants to travel to any location they wish. The school in Salem Center can be the cover, the public face of the school, while the students are actually in the safest possible location.

Now, you might ask why Xavier himself isn’t in Australia training these mutants. I have two rebuttals. One: the precedent set in the mainstream continuity is that Xavier stays with the adult X-Men in Salem Center while Banshee (with Emma Frost) trains the neophyte mutants in Generation X. It is plausible that a group of X-Men, including Banshee, would be chosen to head up the new, secret school in the outback. Two: who is to say Xavier isn’t teaching these kids? He could reach them telepathically, or travel there at any time thanks to Gateway’s powers. Just because we never saw the events on-panel doesn’t mean they couldn’t have happened. It’s not as if we ever saw the mansion being rebuilt, either.

With the Australian base reintroduced into the series, Claremont has the option to finally resolve all of the danglers relating to Gateway and the outback ghost town. He would not have to shift the focus of the series to this location, but he could throw an occasional storyline towards the “B-team” while also giving the readers the answers he teased decades ago. If anyone is going to unlock the secrets of the Australian base, wouldn’t Forge be the most likely contender?

I can’t speak for what Claremont had in mind for the Australian base, but he certainly planted enough clues following its introduction Uncanny X-Men #229 to indicate that he had some elaborate plans for the future.  (As I’ve mentioned earlier, this site has the most comprehensive list of the danglers and possible resolutions I’ve ever read.)  Why is the computer system seemingly alive?  Why is it exempt from Roma’s spell of invisibility?  Who built the tunnels underneath the town?  What’s Gateway’s connection to the land?  What’s Gateway’s history with the Reavers?  As cryptically hinted in the letters page – why would the full truth behind Gateway cost the X-Men dearly?  Perhaps after some of the answers are revealed, we’ll discover this isn’t the best place to be training teenage mutants.  But would the X-Men discover this information in time?

xterminatorsAre all of these X-Men traveling across the globe for the sake of educating one mutant? Of course not! There are plenty of unclaimed mutants at this point in continuity that could be potential recruits. The X-Terminators are still around, leaving Wiz Kid, Artie, and Leech as potential students. X-Men (vol. 2) #1-3 has already been established as predating Uncanny X-Men #281. That means it could conceivably take place before X-Force #4 as well. X-Force #4 had Siryn joining the team. But, had she been reached by Xavier sooner, it is entirely possible that she would have joined Jubilee in the outback. That’s one more student. Rictor and Wolfsbane are unaccounted for during this period, with Rictor abandoning the New Mutants in order to “rescue” Wolfsbane in Genosha. Shouldn’t the X-Men take care of something like this? And, while we’re at it, wouldn’t the former members of X-Factor be interested in rescuing Rusty and Skids from the MLF? See, there’s an entire student body waiting to be taught at this location.

It’s a simple solution, and it’s a shame X-Men Forever never gave the readers an explanation like this. It’s an easy, one sentence justification for shuffling any unwanted character from this era off the stage. “Where’s Iceman?! I know he was an X-Man at this point!” “Australia.” There. Done! Not only does this solution ease the transition from the original continuity to the Forever continuity, but it leaves several doors open for new stories. It also gives Claremont an opportunity to resolve storylines he was never able to finish in his original run; i.e., what the audience expected from the title in the first place.