…the Scourge of the Underworld’s identity?

3111208-nomadThe following guest post comes from AF McGill who has been reading comics since 1995 and collecting them since 2006. Despite that, she finds herself hating comics more often than not. She might be a contrarian, she might be wrong or she might just be passionate to the point of insanity. She has absolutely no love for several of the “acclaimed” creators or books, instead her favourite comics include mostly Mark Gruenwald, J.M. DeMatteis, Fabian Nicieza, John Byrne and Roger Stern stuff. Her favourite characters are a bit more traditional and include Spider-Man, Captain America, Quasar, Quicksilver and Emma Frost. She also likes some DC but not enough to ever write anything of meaningfully amount about them.  Over to AF:

Jack was the 1950s Bucky who took an incomplete version of the super soldier serum and wound up going a bit insane and becoming an evil racist. He was eventually rehabilitated by S.H.I.E.L.D. during the 1980s and became the real Captain America’s sidekick as Nomad.

figure-01

During J.M. DeMatteis’ Captain America run, Nomad is routinely shown to be a bit of a chump. He always falls into traps, he is headstrong and brash, pessimistic and defeatist and his old way of black-and-white thinking is too ingrained for him to truly accept the way things are now. One more than one occasion, Nomad uses excessive force on super-villains much to the protests of Captain America while Nomad debates Cap’s lake of finite action and how the villains will always come back and they don’t care for the sanctity of life the way Cap does for theirs.

figure-02figure-03DeMatteis wraps up writing the book with #300, and then we enter the “Gruenwald era” (although the first few issues aren’t by him, they still feel part of his run). One of Gruenwald’s first goals was to write Nomad out as he saw no point of having Captain America have a sidekick who had equal (or debatably greater) strength to him. There’s a lot going on with Nomad in this issue, firstly Nomad tries to establish a normal civilian life for himself as Jack Monroe and it seems to be going well but then it’s all ruined one day by the arrival of a super-villain called Madcap. Jack is fired from his new job, rejected by the girl he fancied and then pursues Madcap to exact revenge. Instead, Nomad ends up discussing philosophy with Madcap who is… well, mad. Eventually, Nomad, who’s agenda and views are portrayed as wonky throughout the tale, takes Madcap down by himself and announces to Captain America that he wants to strike out on his own and try being a hero in his own way.

figure-04Captain America #309 ends with Nomad and Cap parting ways.

figure-05And started pretty much then across all the Marvel books, Scourge arrived. A master of disguise who dispensed justice by executing supervillains. Of particular note in Captain America #311 – only 2 issues after Nomad left the book – Scourge makes one of his first appearances targetting Constrictor who is the first supervillain Nomad faced on his return in DeMatteis run, a supervillain who beat Nomad spectacularly. Scourge’s assassination of Constrictor is foiled by Cap but Scourge is more successful in other appearances.

figure-06figure-07In Captain America #319, after the mass murder at the Bar with No Name, Scourge removes his mask and his silhouette could match Jack.

figure-08Likewise on the cover to #320 shows Scourge unmasked and the person again resembles Jack.

figure-09However in the actual issue, he doesn’t have the same features as on the cover.

So, eventually, the storyline/crossover is wrapped up in the aforementioned Captain America #320 where Captain America draws Scourge out into the opening by disguising himself as a super-villain as bait. This is where the story gives us the great ambiguity with the ending. “Scourge” arrives to assassinate Captain America but is depicted in an entirely black catsuit costume which is neither Scourge’s costume nor a disguise.

figure-10Captain America subdues “Scourge” and unmasks him to discover he doesn’t know who the guy is. “Scourge” offers up a origin story but before Captain America can cart him off to jail, “Scourge” is shot dead from off-panel as a voice cries out “Justice is served!” (Scourge’s catchphrase).

figure-11figure-12The issue points out all the possible things going on here. Was that REALLY Scourge Cap caught? Or was Scourge still at large? Who killed him?

figure-13For the sake of this, we are going with the idea that Captain America going on the television to bait Scourge inspired a copycat to follow in Scourge’s steps. Cap fought the copycat and when captured the copycat offered up a pleasing sounding tidy origin story. He was in it for the glory (as echoed in his “went out with a bang”). The copycat was assassinated by the real Scourge who arrived later and discovered it was a trap when he found Cap fighting “Scourge”. Realizing this was also a perfect “out”, especially since Captain America was now investigating him, Scourge retired for a time following this.

The Scourge saga resolved then in #320. And what do you know in #324, Nomad – who has been absent from the book since #309 – returns! This time Nomad is planning to murder a drug dealer called the Slug and is employing disguises to get close to his target. How appropriately Scourge-like.

figure-14Captain America eventually confronts Nomad and the two engage in a debate and a fight over killing a villain.

figure-15Eventually, Nomad relents but makes no effort to save the Slug’s life, firmly establishing that Nomad can’t argue with Captain America but doesn’t agree with Cap.

figure-16Nomad remains a supporting character in the book for the next 20 or so issues. This debate continually rears it’s head. Nomad is always quick to suggest fighting or killing baddies and in #340, when Captain America isn’t around, he proudly allows super-villain Vibro to fall to his death.

figure-17Honestly though, I’m glancing over a lot, there is loads of more evidence in both these issues and the DeMatteis issues to support Jack’s uneven character but they usually are a lot of very similar debates about brutality/killing, Nomad acting suspicious or being unstable, Nomad being cynical about the whole superheroes v supervillains dichotomy. I’ve not even mentioned his frequent bouts of anger with “boy scout” D-Man.

Eventually, Captain America and Nomad lock horns over these issues in #345 and a drunk Nomad, after suggesting “storming” the Commission on Superhuman Activities, gets mad and basically calls Cap a pussy. This is Nomad leaving the book’s supporting cast. Forever, actually. He never does return to the book.

figure-18That was #345. In #347, you’ll never guess who returns? Scourge. This time Scourge is shown assassinating the 1950s Red Skull – one of Nomad’s MAJOR enemies.

figure-19figure-20A subsequent appearance (#351) has Scourge arriving at the Commission on Superhuman Activities office and assassinating a member of the Watchdogs (after he in turn attempted to assassinate John Walker). This neatly aligns and mirrors with Jack’s proposed attack on the CSA.

figure-21But by then the Scourge thing more or less fell apart. There was contradictory appearances and a complete lack of success of Scourge’s part to actual do anything. The character was shown to be associated with the Red Skull but also shown to be operating independent. He was killed in one issue by the Red Skull and re-appeared in another completely fine. Eventually we got the explanation that Scourge was basically an organization funded by the Golden Age Angel and there were loads of them.

Meanwhile, Nomad eventually pursued his whole Renegade Easy Rider solo series when he began to notice the complexities of villainy and the law (that’s the actual canon reason for that cosmetic change). Many many years later, Nomad did actually become Scourge in Thunderbolts #33-50. At this time, it was the result of brainwashing.

Here’s where the more tenuous stretches come in.

I’m not sure how to handle Nomad’s relationship with GA Angel. On one hand, the first time around with Scourge, it’s not necessary. But if I want the Scourge who appears in #346-351 to be Nomad, it needs to be established. However, that second round can also be attributed to a subsequent Scourge – but it does ruin the neatness Nomad’s storming out and returning next issue as Scourge.

Secondly, a lot of people cite the Scourge appearance in an issue of Thing where Scourge was disguised as a female wrestler as early evidence there were more than one Scourge because he passed himself off as a scantily clad female.

figure-22However, in Captain America #320, we see Scourge disguised as a pretty convincing woman.

figure-23He also disguised himself as women in other issues such as Cap #311.

figure-24In one issue of Nomad’s solo series, he dresses up as a woman to go undercover.

figure-25When Nomad was Scourge in Thunderbolts, he used an image inducer. He could use one here but that makes the idea of disguises a bit redundant. But Scourge was a MASTER of disguise, he could disguise himself as a bulked up female wrestler.

It’s actually pretty easy to rationalize that Nomad and Angel have met or have a previously unseen adventure together. For what it’s worth, Nomad was shown to interact and have unseen history with some other Golden Age heroes in New Invaders #2 and #9.

figure-26Nomad and Angel (along with “sidekick” Domino, Scourge’s info supplier) could have been behind the original Scourge and when Nomad abandoned the guise he convinced Angel and Domino that they should lay low for a while until the heat dies down so Captain America or others don’t investigate them. Or perhaps first time around it was just Nomad and Domino and Angel only came onboard to finance the second round. Either way, After Nomad returned to Captain America’s side, Angel received funding and support from “John Smith” (a.k.a. Red Skull).

I also think it’s a very very smart way of explaining the sudden change in the Scourge organization as being the suggestion of Red Skull – who himself was exploring capitalist ventures, as a means of spreading his evil. He gave Angel the idea to restructure the Scourge idea now as an actual organization with several Scourges (unknowingly ultimately in the Skull’s pocket). But this may have come before or after Nomad’s brief return.

When Nomad abandoned Captain America he briefly returned to being Scourge for a few hits. He was happy to assassinate 50s Red Skull at the command of “John Smith” due to his past with 50s Skull. Or perhaps “John Smith” is receiving the report from GA Angel and Nomad really isn’t aware of the outside source of target selection.

figure-27Either way his next hit was again personal; U.S.Agent.

However the first new recruit appeared in #350…

figure-28However, he was beaten and killed (latter off-panel) by U.S.Agent. (originally I came up with that this could be Jack, and the reason he stopped being Scourge was when he realized “John Smith” was also aligned and working with terrorists, but you see a big pool of blood coming from Scourge on a later page).

figure-29Nomad soon went to the building housing the CSA to kill U.S.Agent but instead found he’d been beaten to it by what was apparently a member of the Watchdogs. Nomad killed him instead and fled.

Following that Nomad hastily abandoned the guise forever, either realizing that the Scourge organization was being played by “John Smith” (and suspecting that the information he was fed about U.S.Agent had also been supplied to the Watchdogs). He may also have been aware of the new recruit who died in #350 alongside other terrorists which further made him realize Scourge was being made into a puppet. Or he didn’t agree with the idea of franchising the Scourge character.

However, Angel was either not made aware of Nomad’s concerns or didn’t care where the funding was coming from since it seemed sincere in support and he continued the program with what was now an organization with it with multiple new recruits to be Scourge. At least one of whom was loyal to Skull.

(Note: In actual fact the “Watchdog” was a CSA agent in disguise)

The Skull had high expectations for his new Scourge organization but found them to be incompetent without a dedicated operative like Nomad and abandoned them – killing (one of?) his inside men and cutting off funding.

figure-30figure-31Despite this, Angel had enough money to continue on. Nomad’s hatred for John Walker from those issues in the #340s could also contextualize why the Scourge organization / GA Angel spent so long screwing with U.S.Agent in U.S.Agent #1-4. Maybe they even held him responsible for Nomad retiring as Scourge.

figure-32And that’s more or less it. Nomad pursued his solo career as a hardened but complex character and along the way began to realize the Scourge M.O. didn’t really work. There was evil that escaped notice, there was innocent people, there were victims who turned to crime. And his care for Baby Bucky also helped him find the humanity and balance to stop him from going full-on Scourge again.

Also worth noting is following the original Scourge saga, Jack hooks up with a woman Priscilla Lyons who is the basic reason Nomad was going after Slug that time. They eventually fall apart but she goes on to becomes one of the subsequent Scourge recruits in U.S.Agent #1-4.

In all his publishing existence Nomad has been brainwashed 6 times and he has been “dead” 3 times. If ever a character was so messed up in the head to justify dramatic psychotic breaks in becoming a serial killer, it’s Jack Monroe. But, as you can see, it takes quite a lot of legwork to reconcile the latter appearances, but in my mind, the original Scourge was definitely Nomad. While I think the Scourge well has been tapped well past the point of dehydration and adding anything else to it would be pointless, if I was writing Captain America or an appropriate book, I would try and find some way to hint at this idea. Even if it was just adding a few big hints that Nomad was the original Scourge without actually pursuing the idea beyond suggestions.

…Black Widow’s unusually youthful lifespan?

A year after the Communists rejected Nixon’s Five-Point Peace Plan for Southeast Asia and Matt Damon’s birth, Brian C. Saunders was born to redress the balance. Regrettably, the infant failed to stop either the Vietnam conflict or Matt Damon’s career.  For his sins, he was punished with enrolment in US public education and, addled with lack of knowledge, went on to public university for good measure. During this time, he filled his hours with drugs, alcohol and sex with women comic books!, which filled his days with a warm and happy glow. Many careers later, he writes for the public good, using facts and avoiding social media for information or human interaction.  You who read this are welcome.

Natalia Alianovna “Natasha” Romanov, aka the Black Widow, was at a bit of a crossroads in 1990.  That’s when she unexpectedly appeared in one of the most popular issues of the Uncanny X-Men, #268, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Jim Lee.

figure-01_uxm268At the time, for anyone who had been reading comics for over five years, it would have come as no surprise to see the late 20’s Black Widow turning out to have known Wolverine since her childhood since by that stage, the trope of Wolverine already knowing everyone who turned up in his path had become an entrenched part of the character.

figure-02a_mfan24_loganfuryfigure-02b_uxm228_gyrichWhat would have confused readers, though, is the fact that Uncanny #268 depicts Natasha as a young child in World War II, almost 50 years before the present of the issue’s main story.

figure-03a_uxm268So what sort of perspective might Chris Claremont have had to account for the Black Widow’s apparent lack of aging?

Readers would sadly never find out, since while the September 1990 dated issue of Uncanny X-Men #268 raises the question, it never provides an answer, and Claremont is booted off the title before having an opportunity to follow the story up at a later date.

“Madripoor Knights” is very much a Wolverine story.  It is early in Captain America’s career, in “Late-Summer 1941” that he engages ninjas (genin field agents) of the Hand on the streets of Madripoor to rescue Ivan Petrovich.

figure-03b_uxm268Both men are hard pressed to overcome the tide of battle against them, when Logan (the character we are to know as Wolverine) appears, turning the tide in Cap and Ivan’s favour.  After the fight, Logan takes the two men to a local establishment, Seraph’s Bar, where Logan and Cap are briefed by Ivan on his mission and Logan narrowly avoids causing a bar fight with Baron von Strucker and his Nazi aide.

Natasha Romanov has been captured by Strucker to be delivered to the Hand.  The Hand has identified her as gifted with extraordinary aptitude for the martial arts, and means to begin her indoctrination into their organisation.

figure-03c_uxm268The men rescue Natasha but lose Logan, and instead of returning to the bar they go to the local American Consul, who, turning out to be a fascist loyal to the Nazis, promptly delivers them back to Strucker and the Hand.  Only Logan’s return to the conflict halts the ritual death of Ivan and Cap by a blade wielded by the Hand-entranced Natasha.  Freed to act, together the three men defeat Strucker and the Hand, and Logan sees to the safe return of all involved to their respective countries.

In the present of the story, Natasha, as the Black Widow, is surveilling the sibling group Fenris: Andrea and Andreas von Strucker, mutant children of the abovementioned Baron.  She falls prey to Hand field agents under the command of the evil organisation’s new jonin, Matsuo Tsurayaba, but is rescued by Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke who are on the run and searching for the missing X-Men. Upon her recovery, Natasha hugs her “Little Uncle”, Logan, and expresses concern at his debilitated state.  After briefing them, Logan and Natasha draw comparisons with their previous encounter almost 50 years ago to a dismayed Jubilee’s shock.

figure-03d_uxm268Natasha and the X-Men find an informant who gives up a meet location for Fenris and Matsuo. The location turns out to be a sham with decoys, and the villains themselves drink a toast to their victory from a safe, alternative location.

To understand this curious story requires a little history of Marvel itself.  Established in 1961, the Marvel Universe was born piecemeal from characters created in the late 1930’s and 40’s such as Captain America.  Steve Rogers was created in fact early in the year of 1941, a year partially known for fighting in Europe and sabre-rattling from the Pacific.  Nazi political interference with Jews in Germany had by this point become rumors of Ghettos and disappearing of Jewish citizens under German political influence.  These rumors of later proven fact became the impetus that Captain America was created out of, and Marvel had a patriotic Nazi fighter all ready when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

Captain America would go on to return again and again after the war in Marvel’s publishing history, but it was only in Avengers #4 in 1963 that Steve Rogers would return to ongoing publication.  Not long after, 1964 to be precise, the Black Widow was created.  She was a secret agent for the USSR who bedeviled Iron Man…

figure-04a_tos52…a Cold War femme fatale who seduces the unaware Hawkeye into supporting her missions against the USA.

figure-04d_tos57In a few years, she has defected to the West, gotten a makeover as a superhero and uses her Soviet training and “Widow Sting” equipment to fight for the Avengers…

figure-05_avengers-30_-1st-widows-sting…go on to work for the Western-based spy organization, SHIELD…

figure-06_avengers-38_-1st-mission-for-shield…and date Daredevil.

figure-07_daredevil-84_1st-dateAt this time, some background started to be established for the Black Widow.  She acquired a chauffeur who apparently had a long standing relationship with Natasha and he rescued her from her bombed house in Stalingrad during WWII.

figure-08b_daredevil-88_ivan-rescues-natThen, in Daredevil #102, Chris Claremont went on to establish two things about the Black Widow.  Her middle name was Alianovna.  Russian middle names are patronyms which means the name is a version of their father’s first name.  So Natasha’s father is named Alian Romanoff.

figure-09_daredevil-102_1st-alianovnaThe second thing was that in the omnipotent captions, she is referred to as a Tsarina, which means “Empress Queen”.

figure-10_daredevil-102_1st-tsarinaAs Natasha is called Princess throughout Uncanny #268…

figure-11_uxm268_tsarina…Claremont is clearly implying that Natasha is in fact the last surviving heir to the Russian monarchy and Empress and Autocrat of All the Russias!

figure-12_uxm268_last-surviving-heir-of-the-russian-monarchyBut by 1990, Madame Romanoff would have been well over 50 years the age that she was depicted in 1990.  In 1964, this would have not been a problem.  In 1990, though, she was still a clearly young woman and always had been.

figure-13_uxm268_over-50-years-oldAt this point, it is necessary to remember that the Marvel Universe has a compressed time line.  Though most of it has been depicted beginning from 1967, in fact, the compression means that working backward from the present (currently early 21st Century, the beginning of the modern Marvel Universe, Fantastic Four #1, takes place in the early 2000’s and not 1961.  However, characters tied into fixed events, such as the Cold War or World War II, require explanations to orient the reader into how they can exist in the endless present of the Marvel Universe.  For instance, Captain America, fell into suspension animation towards the end of WWII until he awoke in Avengers #4.  But the Black Widow, a WWII child survivor, had no ready reference for her youth.  How could this be?

Some real word history is called for at this point.  During the Russian Civil War, the ruling monarchy was killed.

figure-14a_-colour-restored-picture-of-romanov-familyAmong them was Grand Duchess (or Princess) Anastasia, about whom rumors persisted throughout the 20th Century to the extent that she had survived and escaped.

figure-14b_grand-duchess-princess-anastasiaSeveral women claimed to be the surviving Anastasia, but none were accepted as such in their lifetimes and have since been disproven upon the discovery of the real Anastasia’s grave and subsequent DNA testing.

However, we are talking about the Marvel Universe, which can diverge from ours in subtle ways.  Anastasia was born in 1901.  Natasha Romanoff would have been born in the mid-to-late 1930’s.  It is possible she could be the daughter of Anastasia, if her mother had survived and stayed in Stalingrad and married a man named Alian Romanoff.  This seems unlikely to me as the Secret Police would never have countenanced the existence of a Royal Heir surviving or furthering the line.  The real Anastasia and her family were executed to prevent any threat to the dominance of the Communist Party’s control on the new government.  Moreover, none of the women who claimed to be Anastasia did so within the USSR, but safely in foreign countries far away.  It’s therefore very unlikely the real Anastasia could have lived in open sight in Stalingrad until World War II.

So how could Chris Claremont have reasoned this?

Natasha survived the destruction of her own home during the Battle of Stalingrad which took place from August 23, 1942 to February, 2 1943.  We know this because she told this to Viper in Marvel Team-Up #85.

figure-15_marvel-team-up-85-p13She could only safely exist in her homeland if all the ruling Romanoffs were believed dead.  But, what if there was a heretofore unknown infant born just before the February Revolution?  Conceived and born in secret because of the impeding revolution, this boy would have been the last hope for Nicholas II to continue the Romanoff house and restore the monarchy.  He could not remain in St. Petersburg, but was removed by a trusted retainer to the city of Stalingrad, where he could be raised in safety.  Nicholas II gives his lastborn son Alian Romanoff to his trusted retainer, Ivan Petrovitch.  Petrovitch raises the young Alian in a house purchased with what would be his family inheritance and there, Alian would grow to manhood, being trained by Ivan and study, waiting for the opportunity to regain the throne. Alian marries and the union produces Natasha, who is naturally athletic.  As World War II commences, Alian and his wife allow Natasha to train in ballet.  Her ballet performances expose the child’s prowess to the local martial arts community, resulting in her abduction by the Hand.  Unwilling to alert the Russian authorities, Ivan is enlisted to undertake the mission to save Natasha.  Alian’s wealth has allowed him to make contacts with foreign governments such as the USA, who are very interested when the heir to Russia’s throne asks for help and send their top asset, Steve Rogers as Captain America to Madripoor to meet Ivan, thus setting the stage for a young Steve Rogers to meet Logan and rescue Natasha.

In 1990, it had been many years since Black Widow’s WWII history had been referenced and many political changes had befallen the relationship with East and West since.  It was a shock to see it thoroughly and somewhat definitely referenced.  The floating timeline of the Marvel Universe wherein all present day issues took place in a past circa some eight to nine years since Fantastic Four #1 meant that the Black Widow’s childhood, fixed in WWII made her older than her apparent age.  While her present day adventures could be compressed, her past expanded as her meeting Wolverine and Captain America, and presence at the battle of Stalingrad locked her origins much the same way as Captain America and the Sub-Mariner’s were.  Steve Rogers was in a state of suspended animation until Avengers #4, Namor is a hybrid with an enhanced lifespan.  How does the Black Widow, a human peak athlete remain so?

The answer, I posit, lies in Claremont’s Spider-Woman #42, “The Judas Man.”

figure-16a_spider-woman-42_the-judas-manMichael Kramer has disappeared and daughter Pamela hires Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman to find him.  Michael is on the run from Viper and Silver Samurai.  Viper has gotten the catalyst for a virus that’s 99% fatal to all human beings.  In 1944, Kramer and his fellow American servicemen went down behind enemy lines, only to end up implanted with the deadly virus by the Red Skull.  The virus, dubbed the Judas Plague, required genetic modification to create immune plague carriers for distribution of the agent.  The antidote for the plague is generated via human reproduction by the “Judas Men”: their children will be born with the mutated matrix that will provide the antidote.  However, Captain America and Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes destroyed the lab and all the research…

figure-16b_sw42_recap…except for the catalyst which was later found.  The sole survivor of the Judas Plague experiment, Michael escaped, and hid.  He also gained extended longevity…

figure-16c_sw42_michael-kramer-longevity…and his virus was discovered to have mutated into an inert form after Spider-Woman defeated Viper and Samurai’s plot.

figure-16d_sw43_michael-kramers-virus-discovered-to-be-inertIn 1945, we know victorious Russian forces in Germany took resources and assets from the conquered country as reparations for the War.  As part of this process, it is likely the Russians would have been instructed to collect any scientific research or seize sites of laboratories.  Although Fury and Captain America reported the Judas Plague research destroyed, the report was obviously not entirely accurate, given Michael Kramer’s status and the catalyst’s destruction given Viper’s later obtaining of it?

Jessica Drew recounts in Spider-Woman #43 that the Judas Plague was “required reading” for all Hydra agents.

figure-17a_sw43_jessica-recalls-judas-plague-knowledge-from-hydra-trainingViper, having likewise been a Hydra recruit, would have likely known about the site of the experiment and that Fury’s report was inaccurate.

figure-17b_sw42_viper-knew-furys-report-was-inaccurateIt stands to reason, then, that acquiring the Plague was an operational goal for Hydra, so at some point, Hydra got the catalyst from the Russians and Viper later stole it from Hydra.

But what were the Russians doing with it for so long?

By the late 40’s, early 50’s, Natasha Romanoff would have been identified as a prime candidate for espionage.  Instead Natasha was allowed to be a ballerina…

figure-18a_dd104_bolshoi-ballet…and marry Alexei Alanovich Shostakov, a top pilot for the Soviet military.

figure-18b_avengers-44_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAfter she was told he was killed (in reality, Shostakov was in training as the Red Guardian) she volunteered and trained for the KGB.

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashbackThe aptitude for martial arts that the Hand had seen in 1941 would have been manifest and she would have been trained in those arts and spy craft to serve the USSR.  As a Hand candidate for Master Assassin, she would have been top in her class and a prime asset.

figure-18d_dd88_bw-married-soviet-military-pilot-alexei-shostakovAs the Red Guardian, Alexei would have been a public figure, a role model to rally Soviet patriotism in the public and inspire fear of the strength of Russian might in the world.

figure-18d_avengers-44-red-guardian-projectThis did not happen because of his apparent death after Avengers #44 and the length of his experiment, which displayed considerable flaws such as his psychological volatility and his willingness to die to save the embodiment of Soviet Russia’s arch-rival.

figure-18d_avengers-44-flashbackHad that not happened, however, he would have been an individual of considerable influence according to Soviet planning.

I would further posit, therefore, that the Soviet government could not allow either Natasha or Alexei such unchecked influence.  Thus, both of them married and were subsequently separated for training alone.  The KGB by this time would have found the surviving German scientists of the Judas Plague experiment site.  Natasha was then subjected to a KGB-run Judas Plague experiment as the agency’s scientists would have deemed her likely to survive and then used as a spy. Natasha would assume the code name of the project, “Black Widow,” although she would be likely be unaware of the actual project or her status as a vector of a plague that could virtually depopulate the planet.  At the time that Alexei completed his training, Natasha would have been reunited with him.

figure-18f_natasha-and-alexeiAnd with that reunion, Alexei would be exposed to the plague, it likely being a sexually transmitted disease, and thereafter he could be deployed in the field with full confidence, either under Natasha’s influence as a loyal wife and operative or blackmailed with his life should he turn against the motherland.  He would serve as public relations at home and at the forefront in the Rodina’s military defense.

However, it obviously took much longer for Alexei to complete his “training.”  The Marvel compressed timeline meant that when Natasha was told Alexei was “dead” in the flashback in Avengers #44…

figure-18c_avengers-44-flashback…she spent decades believing he was dead.  During this time, the Red Guardian project crawled on.  Obviously inspired by the West’s Super Soldier Project, the Soviets’ process was flawed, with Alexei being endowed with superior strength, but a volatile psyche.  These setbacks might have required lengthy periods of mental conditioning, revealing the Super Soldier longevity effect.  Being the first operational asset, any other subjects of the project were likely driven insane if they survived the physical and psychological trauma of the incomplete chemical and radiological procedure.  Alexei’s personality was so altered, Natasha perceived little of the man she loved.  It’s likely he was brainwashed repeatedly in an effort to restore his sanity and bring him to operational readiness.  By the time he was, Natasha’s Judas Plague infection, like Michael Kramer’s, would have been found inert.  Well before then, she would have noticed her own longevity via the Judas Plague process and found out about what happened to her.  She would have been about 40 some years old and although youthful, she would have also realized she was infertile from the Judas Plague treatment (designed for men, I have to assume it wouldn’t be good for a woman’s reproductive ability).  This would have been another factor leading to her eventual defection to the West.

Without either Natasha or the Judas Plague, the Red Guardian project would have needed another control, but it’s likely at this point the break-up of the USSR would have loosened the paranoia and the need for a counterpart to Captain America.  At any rate, the Red Guardian went into the field with an unstable mentality and apparently died, leaving Natasha an indefinitely young widow.  Considering Alexei’s mental instability, his mission would have been selected to cause the most damage and result in his death.  Ironically, he died a hero, saving his wife and Captain America, somewhere in Southeast Asia.

figure-18f_avengers-44-death-of-alexei-shostakovWhen Natasha defected and her infection was inert, the catalyst would have been of no use and the Russians would have been either glad to sell it, or warehouse it.  Through either of those opportunities, Hydra and Viper could have acquired it, not knowing that the lifespan of the active virus in Michael Kramer had already expired.  After Viper stole the project from Hydra, she acquired Michael Kramer before the virus’s efficacy was verified.  By the time Spider-Woman freed Kramer, Viper’s scientists had determined his infection was inert as well.  The project was a failure and was subsequently abandoned, leaving two survivors, Michael Kramer and the Black Widow, forever changed.

Among her friends, such as Ivan and Logan, Natasha is called Princess or Tsarina.  It seems like a nickname to those who overhear, but in truth, she is the last surviving member of the Romanoffs and the rightful heir to the long deposed Russian Monarchy. She will never claim that crown, because her calling is a higher one.  She claims the titles of S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Avenger, and most importantly the Black Widow as a remembrance of the insidious exploitation of female agents by the Rodina through projects like the one that created her.

…The Dane Curse?

Figure 00

When Polaris was introduced it was revealed that she was Magneto’s daughter, firstly by Mesmero in X-Men #50…

Figure 01

…and then by the master of magnetism himself in X-Men #51.

Figure 02

In X-Men #52 Iceman suggests that both villains had lied and that Lorna’s parents had actually died and she had been adopted by her father’s sister and brother-in-law…

Figure 03

… further supported by the revelation in X-Men #58 that the Magneto who partnered with Mesmero and claimed to be her father had actually been a robot.

Figure 04

Figure 05

And that was pretty much the state of affairs for the next thirty plus years, until a convoluted series of stories in recent years which have stupidly revealed Lorna’s mother apparently having had an affair with the self-styled master of magnetism, making her Magneto’s daughter after all.

But that’s not the end of the matter.

In Astonishing Tales #3, we were introduced to a character named Zaladane who was a priestess of the sun god, Garokk, and a member of his tribe of Savage Land followers.

Figure 06

After floating around in the background for over a decade, playing a small role as Garokk’s high priestess, Chris Claremont brought her forward into the spotlight, initially in Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 where the High Evolutionary introduced her to Havok as his assistant Zala…

Figure 07a

…during his plot to restore the then barren Savage Land to its former state during the Evolutionary War.

Figure 07b

She came face to face with the X-Man Havok during this time, who found her strangely familiar looking.

Figure 07c

Zaladane remained out of most of the action fighting in this Annual, content with the power that had become hers as the High Evolutionary’s second-in-command.  However it was at this point she began her association with the Savage Land Mutates.

Figure 07d

Claremont then follows this story up with a two-part storyline in Uncanny X-Men #249-250 (“The Dane Curse”) with Zaladane as the main villain, having Lorna Dane captured…

Figure 08a

…and brought to the Savage Land…

Figure 08b

…where her real name is not only revealed as Zala Dane…

Figure 08c

…but she addresses Lorna as her long-lost sister whom she has “searched the world for”.

Figure 08d

In the following issue she uses the High Evolutionary’s Transmutator, a machine capable of transferring superpowers from one individual to a genetically compatible match, to steal Lorna’s magnetic powers and graft them onto herself.

It is also here that Havok can’t help but notice a family resemblance between the two.

Figure 09b

But Polaris obviously had no clue about Zaladane being her sister since she showed as much surprise as readers at the suggestion.

Figure 09c

However, a few issues later, in Uncanny X-Men #254, Lorna makes it to Muir Island where Moira MacTaggert checks her over carefully and asserts that Zaladane “must” have been some sort of close relative for the power transfer to have worked.

Figure 10

While we know from X-Men #52 that Lorna was actually adopted by her aunt, fans have used this to suggest that Zaladane was her aunt’s daughter and therefore Lorna’s cousin, who had acquired her aunt’s married surname.

However, in terms of genetics first cousins have 12.5% of each other’s genes (implying, inversely, that 87.5% of their genes are different), whereas siblings have 50% of their genes in common with one another.

Figure 11

So these hints Claremont adds, particularly Moira’s comments, would all seem to point to him intending Zaladane to be Lorna Dane’s sister, and not her cousin.

Claremont has Zaladane return eighteen months later, in Uncanny X-Men #274, trying to steal Magneto’s powers as well…

Figure 12a

…though she was ultimately defeated and killed.

Figure 12b

Again fans’ theories claim that if her power-stealing technique was workable at all with Magneto, this was meant to be a heavy hint on Claremont’s part that Zaladane, Polaris, and Magneto were in fact all closely related. In recent years this has led to the whole long-discredited assertion about Lorna being Magneto’s daughter being dusted off and not only waved in our faces by Chuck Austen, who is on record as having been the worst writer on any core X-title in history, but made established continuity by Peter David.

However, I would argue that Claremont did not mean to hint at this at all, and here’s why!

During his swan song, in X-Men #2, he had made a big deal that Moira MacTaggert had taken genetic samples from Magneto after he had been reverted to infancy in an attempt to cure the instability in his central nervous system caused by his manipulation of the Earth’s magnetic field which had been responsible for his becoming a villain.

Figure 13a

Moira was too thorough to have not cross-referenced Lorna’s DNA during her countless periods on Muir Isle with those she had of Magnus’s, particularly after claims during her introduction as his daughter.

Figure 13b

Nevertheless, Claremont’s first run on Uncanny X-Men ended not long after this, so we never discovered his plans for the true familial connection between Polaris and Zaladane.

If Lorna is her long-lost sister, however, one can adduce that Zala’s father was similarly the sister of the couple that adopted Lorna.

But despite general fan consensus, this is not the only clue we have.

That is, there is one additional clue which has been RIGHT THERE since Zaladane’s introduction…

…the meaning of her name…

While it initially seemed to be an insignificant, arbitrary collection of syllables, upon further analysis one finds the last syllable “dane” means “valley dweller” which could suggest her and Lorna’s ancestors originate from a valley.

Where that valley could be is anyone’s guess until one looks to Zala’s first name which means “beautiful” in Slovene.  So her full name would mean “beautiful valley dweller” (certainly NOT out of the realm of possibility for parents to name their daughter).

This leads to the question: Is there a “valley” in the Balkan region that has been the setting of any stories, or identified as the birthplace of any characters, within the Marvel Universe?

Well not necessarily, until one considers the valley that shared a western border with Yugoslavia which Slovene was considered to be part of at the time of both characters’ introductions.

This valley was below Wundagore Mountain, and was otherwise known as Transia!

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Figure 14c

So might this suggest that Transia was the birthplace of either siblings, or at least their parents?

And if their parents ARE from Transia, might they already be established characters in the Marvel Universe?

While there are perhaps a number of famous candidates for their father, it would seem unlikely that it is Phillip Masters, the Fantastic Four supervillain known as the Puppet Master, since after marrying Alicia’s mother, the couple went on to have NO children of their own.

Figure 14d

One could argue the same for Django and Marya Maximoff as they were already accounted for as parents, having adopted the twins Wanda and Pietro, otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver, from the High Evolutionary after the their mother Magda’s disappearance.

Figure 14ei

That leaves the High Evolutionary himself, Herbert Wyndham.

Figure 14f

But while he knew who Zaladane was when he engaged her as his lab assistant during the Evolutionary War, he did NOT appear to show any paternal instinct toward her.  It is interesting that he DID show paternal feelings at this time to Alex Summers though, the boyfriend of Lorna Dane.  In addition, his surname is not “Dane”.  However, given the fabrications Wanda and Pietro were told with regard to their own biological origins, he could very well have paid Lorna’s adopted parents to change their surname to “Dane” and take on the youngster.

But more on this later, since for now I wish to turn to their mother, a character for whom there was no mention made before the end of Claremont’s first run.

Since Lorna is blissfully unaware of her true origins, to investigate this question I feel we need to look more to Zaladane who was at least aware she had a sister, and for some time apparently given her claim in Uncanny X-Men #249 that she had been searching “the world for you, dear sister”.

Very little was known about the past of Zaladane by the end of Claremont first run.  While not a native of the Savage Land, the circumstances and timing of her arrival in the prehistoric land hidden within Antarctica have yet to be revealed.

One thing is clear though, the dark-haired beauty was mad for power.

So is this a trait she inherited from one of her parents…

…her mother perhaps?!

It is interesting to note that Claremont penned another story closely similar in its attempt to resolve a familial connection back in 1982.  I’m speaking about where he brings the Viper into the pages of Spider-Woman from issue #42, having Jessica interfering with her operations, during which time several characters note the remarkable similarity between the two women.  In her private thoughts Claremont repeatedly has Viper lament over how much she loved Jessica, even while outwardly demanding her death.

Figure 15a

The “truth” then comes in issue #44 that the terrorist, and all-around nihilist, had been possessed 50 years earlier on Mount Wundagore by Chthon who had planned to use her in an unexplained way to free him from his arcane prison within the mount.  But for some reason the demon-spirit found some flaw within Viper that put an end to his being able to use her to end his extradimensional exile.

Figure 15b

Less than a year later J.M. Dematteis retcons Viper being Spider-Woman’s mother in Captain America #281, revealing that Morgan Le Fay had actually implanted her with false memories that she had mothered Jessica on behalf of Chthon.

Figure 16

With his plot nixed, did Claremont then decide to carry it on through the mystery of Lorna and Zaladane’s unrevealed origins?

If so, I’d suggest he would reveal that Viper’s memories weren’t entirely false and Chthon had not implanted the memory of her being a mother but instead the identity of whom she and her daughter had been.

But why the Drews…

To answer this, we perhaps need to go back to why Viper was on Mount Wundagore in the first place, and what of her background up to Claremont leaving had been.

Throughout Viper’s career as a terrorist, in her Marvel comic appearances, she had consistently been shown to use neurotoxins and haemotoxins derived from reptiles.

Figure 17a

Figure 17b

Figure 17c

Figure 17d

But she had never been shown to employ anyone to produce these on her behalf.

This would seem to suggest she had an innate understanding of toxins which may suggest she was secretly an accomplished biochemist herself.

So I’d suggest it works something like this…

After surviving her family’s murder during an unnamed revolution in Europe, the woman who would become Viper came to settle in the valley below Mount Wundagore, Transia.  But while she had escaped with her life, I would posit that the scarring she sustained on the right side of her face was a result of being raped while crossing the border which resulted in her becoming pregnant.

Figure 18

As for when, I’d suggest that it coincided with Jonathon Drew’s departure from Mount Wundagore after the 6th century sorcerer, Magnus, relinquished control of his body after successfully re-binding Chthon within the mountain once again.

Figure 19a

This was in 1958.

But Spider-Woman #44 revealed Viper had been possessed fifty years earlier by Chthon which, since the issue was set in 1982, would mean she arrived on Mount Wundagore as far back as 1932.  However, no revolutions in Europe occurred just prior to this time, the closest being the Klaipėda Revolt which took place in 1923 in Prussia and approximately 1,200kms from Transia.

I’d instead argue that Chthon had lied about how long he’d controlled Viper for and she had in fact arrived in Transia toward the end of Magnus and the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore’s campaign against the demon-spirit.

Figure 19b

If so, the most likely revolution Viper had escaped with her life from is the Hungarian Revolution.

So she arrives in Transia with a young daughter, and is perhaps even witness to the battle.

She struggles to make ends meet after escaping her home and, with an additional mouth to feed in the form of her young daughter, she takes to a life of petty crime such as stealing which continues when she arrives in the valley of Transia.

After settling in the village, she hears rumours of a tower of marvels and thinks she’s hit the payload.  And so it is not long before she makes her way up the mount to break into the High Evolutionary’s “Tower”.

Figure 20a

However, she is discovered by his New Men, who bring her before their master.

Figure 20b

But instead of turning her over to the village’s authorities, he is struck by her appearance and so begins further conversation with her.  Discovering she has an innate flair for biochemistry he encourages her to move into the citadel with her daughter, Zala, and takes her under his wing, having her eventually fill Jonathon’s role as his laboratory assistant.

Having not previously used his Genetic Accelerator on reptiles due to his concern about how aggressive a fully grown Serpent-Man might become, he entrusts her to begin researching how this issue might be overcome.

During their time working together the two fall in love, get married in the citadel and Viper goes on to become pregnant with their daughter.

Unbeknownst to Herbert though, she co-opts the study she has been tasked with to develop a serum derived from reptilian cells to heal the scarring on the right side of her face.  Since the mountain is abundant with vipers (specifically vipera ammodytes which are native to the Balkan region), they become the specimens she exploits for her experiments.  But after countless efforts she is unable to fully ameliorate her facial disfigurement.  However, she does develop a deep affinity for the viper (her studies of
them leading to her becoming an expert in neurotoxins and haemotoxins).

Still tormented by her facial scarring though…

Figure 21a

…she becomes distant from Herbert, obsessed with resolving it.  Due to scientific efforts
being unable to resolve it for her, she recalls her arrival in the village and the battle with Chthon and Herbert recounting how young Jessica’s father, Jonathon, had used the Darkhold to rebind the demon-spirit after Baron Russoff, their neighbour, had used it to attempt to release him.

Figure 21b

One night, telling Herbert she is after additional specimens for her studies, she instead makes her way to Russoff’s castle and, using her skills learned while on the run, breaks in and steals the Darkhold.  She then performs the book’s Spell of Ascension but some flaw within her prevents Chthon from being able to break free from his Earthly prison.

As for what the flaw in Viper is, I’d suggest it is connected to the serpent serum she used on herself in her efforts to cure her facial scarring.  That is, since the serum she injects herself with is derived from vipers living around Mount Wundagore, I would posit that the snakes have been irradiated by the same mineral that similarly binds Chthon within the mountain.  However, while the large mineral stores in Wundagore were previously believed to be uranium, I’d posit they are in fact vibranium (in line with my Grand Unified Vibranium Theory and I’ll explain why further down).

But Viper does succeed in summoning the demon-spirit and begs him to cure her facial scarring.  He agrees to only if she hands over the daughter she currently carries (i.e. Lorna) once born, which in desperation she agrees to.  But as most deals with demons
go, and while her scarring vanishes, she doesn’t quite get what she bargained for.

The spell over, Viper returns to the “Tower” where she is supported by Herbert and Bova to give birth; but upon doing so the demon appears in the birthing chamber to claim baby Lorna as his own.

Sensing Chthon, the sorcerer Magnus returns from the spirit-world once more and this time enters the High Evolutionary, using Herbert’s armoured body to protect Lorna and bear her to a chamber in the citadel where he exposes the infant to a sample of vibranium from the Earth surrounding the mountain.  This immediately protects the child from Chthon’s attempted possession, and it has the additional outcome of turning her hair momentarily green (which occurs again, but this time permanently, when her magnetic powers manifest).

The immediate threat of Chthon having passed, Magnus leaves Herbert’s body but not before explaining to him what has occurred and how vibranium deposits from the surrounds of Mount Wundagore, but not the core, act as a deterrent to the demon.

Since Chthon is unable to claim Lorna, the bargain defaults immediately to Viper who he goes on to possess and when Herbert goes to comfort her she suddenly becomes cold, aloof, distant and detached toward him.  From now on she has no free will and her sole existence is that she will be employed as his puppet, the demon forcing her to carry out his bidding while still retaining a sliver of true humanity in the back of her mind.

As Chthon’s first act in possession of Viper’s body, he compels her to open a portal to his prison using the black orb he has replaced her right eye (similarly damaged when her face was scarred from her assault during the Hungarian Revolution) after Magnus has relinquished control of the High Evolutionary’s body so he can be sent to his domain.

Figure 22

But Herbert manages to overpower her once he dons his armour.  Upset, but similarly enraged that his wife is now beyond his reach and the fact that she was willing to sacrifice their daughter to the demon, he banishes her from the citadel.  While refusing to let her take Lorna he is unable to stop her from taking the older Zala with her.

And so it is Viper leaves Mount Wundagore and the village of Transia with daughter Zala, going on to become agent of Hydra and eventual international terrorist.

Figure 23

Worried that Viper will be compelled by Chthon to eventually return for young Lorna, the High Evolutionary decides it much safer if he adopts her out as he had done with the children of Magneto.  But he decides much further away is necessary this time.  He seeks the counsel of his dear friend Jonathon Drew who approaches his sister who lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband who were unable to have children of their own.  Believing it is better to hide her in plain sight, Herbert and Jonathon decide it is best Lorna goes by the surname of her mother and sister, which is Dane, believing if Viper does decide to hunt Lorna down she is unlikely to look for a family with her own surname.  Their plot hatched, Herbert organises the paperwork so Drew’s sister and her husband become “Dane’s” after which they to move from New Haven to prevent anyone drawing conclusions that she has been placed her relatives of Jonathon.  And so it is that Jonathon’s sister and her husband move to southern California where they go on to raise young Lorna.

Over the years Chthon’s hold on Viper begins to weaken, and in the back of her mind she begins developing a desire to be reunited with her daughter/s.

Figure 24

Chthon is not happy about the idea, though, given his inability to possess the siblings due to their relative exposure to vibranium.

Also, in addition to realising he’ll be unable to convince Viper that she had never been on Wundagore due to their pact the demon recalls another child had lived at the citadel he could use to free himself from his mountain prison… young Jessica Drew.  Given her father Jonathon’s own involvement in hiding Lorna, the demon-spirit feels a delicious irony at the prospect and so implants memories in Viper’s mind that she is in fact Merriem his wife and not the estranged wife of the High Evolutionary.  He even goes so far as to mystically adjust Viper’s facial appearance to be more like the adult Jessica to make the memory real not only to Viper but others around both of them as well.

Does this not provide a much more intellectually-satisfying resolution to the 30 years plus mystery for how Viper came to believe she was Merriem Drew and Spider-Woman was her daughter than the retconned explanation we received from J.M. Dematteis in Captain America #281!?

As for Zala Dane, living under the influence of an agent of Chthon she cannot help but develop a similar nature to that of her sociopathic mother.  Having two such personalities living in the same household causes problems however, leading to Zala leaving her mother who goes on to eventually join the terrorist hordes of Hydra.

Having learned of the mutative effects of the mineral of Mount Wundagore while herself taking an interest in geophysics while living in the High Evolutionary’s citadel, I would posit that Zala independently discovers it is vibranium and comes to understand that she has developed mild psionic abilities as a result of her exposure to the radiation it emits from the Mount.

And so, after leaving her mother, she develops similar plans for world domination and comes to believe the mineral will enable her to fully achieve these goals.

Realising she can never return to Transia due to the mountain being under the protection of the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore…

Figure 25

…and the vibranium mound in Wakanda being similarly protected by the Panther Cult…

Figure 26

…she comes to learn of the Antarctic variant (perhaps by meeting Parnival Plunder) and so travels to the hidden prehistoric land there.

Figure 27

While there she learns of the Sun-People’s god Garokk whom she comes to believe has the power to draw forth the land’s vibranium deposits.  And so using her psionic abilities, which she convinces others are magical skills, she manipulates herself to become their high priestess.

However, upon Garokk returning to the Savage Land she found she couldn’t easily control him and so after his death…

Figure 28

…she had the tribe’s acolytes kidnap radiologist Kirk Marston (who previously helped Ka-Zar defeat the villain Klaw, another vibranium mutate), and exposes him to the liquid from the black pool beneath their city.  Upon being transformed into the Sun God…

Figure 29

…she effectively exerts her control over him using her vibranium-induced psionic abilities and begins compelling him to take over the whole Savage Land.  Despite her psionic abilities leading Garokk to make significant progress in unknowingly helping her achieve her long-term goals…

Figure 30

…Ka-Zar’s allies the X-Men manage to defeat Garokk not once, but twice.

Realising Garokk is not bringing her the success she so desperately craves Zaladane begins changing her game plan.

Taking control of her cult she next allies herself with Sauron…

Figure 31

…who she learns of Polaris from, and ends up deducting the mutant mistress of magnetism is her younger sister left behind on Wundagore.

She then attempts to track her down after her defeat at the hands of the X-Men once again, with the aim of exploiting Lorna’s magnetic powers so she can draw forth all of the Savage Land’s vibranium and use it to threaten the world’s governments if they do not hand control over to her…

…but the trail goes cold once Polaris is possessed by Malice and recruited to lead Mister Sinister’s Marauders, the psionic entity managing to block Zaladane’s psionic tracking.

Figure 32

Once Mister Sinister was seemingly killed during the crisis known as “Inferno” though, Malice’s hold over Polaris weakened, leading to Lorna gaining the upper hand and being able to contact the X-Men for help.

Figure 33

As soon as this occurred, Lorna came back on Zaladane’s radar and her capture by the Savage Land Mutates was almost instantaneous.

And so there you have it, the mystery behind Zaladane and Polaris, and “The Dane Curse” finally resolved after some 25 years!

But I’m not done yet since as there’s still Malice!

Figure 34aIt’s pretty obvious that Chris Claremont drew his inspiration for this character from science fiction author Piers Anthony’s first published novel, Chthon, which was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 1968.

Figure 34bIn this story the main protagonist commits the crime of falling in love with a strange and extremely beautiful woman in the forest named Malice and is therefore condemned to death in the subterranean prison of Chthon.  The protagonist comes to discover that Malice is a legendary and dangerous siren called a minionette, which are females all identical to each other and semi-telepathic, their beauty and youth maintained eternally by negative emotions, whereas positive emotions cause them pain and sufficiently intense love kills them.

I’d therefore posit that Malice is Lorna’s twin sister and she became a being of pure psionic energy while a foetus in her mother’s womb, as a result of Viper’s possession by Chthon, his evil energy making it so that she was able to merge with the negative emotional instincts of others, overriding their personalities and taking control of their bodies.  Her being Lorna’s twin would finally explain why Malice’s energy matrix was so compatible with Polaris’s powers and, if we go by Moira’s theory in Uncanny X-Men #254 about Zaladane, how the two became so easily grafted together, effectively inseparable.  This would further explain why, when Malice attempted to leave Lorna…

Figure 35

…Mister Sinister informed her that he was aware of the connection and that was why he had suggested their union in the first place, telling her that she is “the unchanging pole star”.

Figure 36

We have never previously understood quite what Sinister meant by this phrase, but now it becomes so damned obvious.  Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, is a BINARY STAR, a system which consists of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass.  So when Davan Shakari (Eric the Red) gave Lorna the codename Polaris…

Figure 37

… he obviously knew she was a twin and that she would come to be psionically bonded to her.  Sinister obviously also knew Lorna and Malice were twins, but as to how he discovered this and what destiny his bringing them together pointed to, don’t you think it’s time I was offered a break;)

This has been Nathan Summers, continuing to live up to the sobriquet of “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”!

Postscript: Incidentally, Wyndham means “village near the Winding Way”.  Given Herbert Edgar Wyndham established his citadel of science on Mount Wundagore, above the village of Transia, might this finally suggest it was there that Chris Claremont intended Margali Szardos to have also been born!?

…the origin of Rick Jones?

RickJonesSidekickFront_zps5cbb4895

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

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

Figure 01_Rick-Jones-Hulk

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

Figure 02_RJ-AvengersRadio

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

Figure 03_avengers-RJ

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

Figure 04_RickFindsNegaBands

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

Figure 05_RJ-DestinyForce

1984 – Teams up with Rom Spaceknight

Figure 06_RomAndRJ

1986 – Is cured of cancer by the Beyonder

Figure 07_Beyonder-rick_jones

1986 – Becomes a Hulk-like creature

Figure 08_RJ-HulkOut2

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

Figure 09_RickMarriesMarlo

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we know:

Rick doesn’t know much about his past.

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

jackie2

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

jackie3

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

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

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

Rick has some powerful untapped potential within himself

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

Figure 10_thanatos4

Questions:

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

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

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

Figure 11_ZolaMoonBoy

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

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

Figure 12_KorvacAvengers_177_02

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

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

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

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

Figure 13_MoonboyFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…why Mr. Sinister had the Marauders kill the Morlocks?

Figure 00_OHOTMU18v2_Morlocks2

During the Mutant Massacre, the first X-Crossover (1986), without warning or apparent reason the Morlocks living in the abandoned subway tunnels below New York are slaughtered by the Marauders.  For the remainder of Chris Claremont’s run we never learned the actual motivations for the massacre, the closest to answers readers obtain is during the actual crossover when Storm suggests that it is nothing less than a planned, deliberate attempt to wipe out Callisto’s people…

Figure 1: Storm suggests the Marauders attack was nothing less than a planned deliberate attempt to wipe out the Morlocks (New Mutants #46, p.8)

Figure 1: Storm suggests the Marauders attack was nothing less than a planned deliberate attempt to wipe out the Morlocks (New Mutants #46, p.8)

Figure 2: …and Sabretooth further tells Wolverine that Mr. Sinister is playing a game that doesn't allow for "wild cards" like the Morlocks (Uncanny X-Men #212, p.?)

Figure 2: …and Sabretooth further tells Wolverine that Mr. Sinister is playing a game that doesn’t allow for “wild cards” like the Morlocks (Uncanny X-Men #212, p.15)

When Claremont was forced from the X-titles in the early 90s it became another of his many “dangling plots”.  When later writers revealed Mr. Sinister as a former servant of Apocalypse, theories arose that his master had deemed the Morlocks as not strong enough to survive and previously programmed him to do it.

Figure 3: Apocalypse reminds Caliban that the weak, like the Morlocks, need to be culled so the strong can grow and prosper (X-Factor #51, p.4)

Figure 3: Apocalypse reminds Caliban that the weak, like the Morlocks, need to be culled so the strong can grow and prosper (X-Factor #51, p.4)

In the 10 years following Claremont’s original storyline, the Morlocks had been retconned into having been created by the Dark Beast, a refugee from the Age of Apocalypse crossover.

Figure 4: Marrow meets the Dark Beast, who recognises her as "his creation, one or two generations removed" (X-Men Prime, p.41)

Figure 4: Marrow meets the Dark Beast, who recognises her as “his creation, one or two generations removed” (X-Men Prime, p.41)

In Cable #28 it is inferred Mr. Sinister recognised the Morlocks as being based on his own genetically manipulative style, given Dark Beast learned genetics from his AoA counterpart, and annoyed by the unauthorised use of his theories, sends the Marauders to wipe them out.

Figure 5: Sinister claims the Morlocks are the first such perversion of his work, which were retconned into being genetically manipulated by the Dark Beast (Cable #28, p.8)

Figure 5: Sinister claims the Morlocks are the first such perversion of his work, which were retconned into being genetically manipulated by the Dark Beast (Cable #28, p.8)

However, wasn’t it a bit of a coincidence that the Morlock’s system led from their tunnels beneath Manhattan to Professor Xavier’s estate as stated by Colossus in Uncanny X-Men #243, p.19, and shown in New Mutants #90-91!?

Figure 6: Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19).  Coincidence!?

Figure 6: Colossus tells his teammates that the Morlock tunnel network leads from Manhattan to those directly beneath the hangar complex below Professor Xavier’s estate (Uncanny X-Men #243, p. 19). Coincidence!?

Figure 7: Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Figure 7: Who originally built these tunnels to cover nearly forty miles from Manhattan to Graymalkin Lane in Westchester? (Uncanny X-Men #193, p.4)

Now flash forward to X-Men Forever (v1) #4, written by Fabian Nicieza that hints Mr. Sinister is responsible for muties!!… Threads picked up in this issue were seeded earlier by Nicieza in X-Men (v2) #12 where Professor X explains to Wolverine that his father, Brian Xavier, worked at Almagordo Nuclear Research Facility a front for mutant research (the later revealed government-backed Black Womb Program)…

Figure 08_X12_Almagordo

Figure 8: A file explains that Xavier's father’s work facility at Almagordo Nuclear Research Facility was really a front for mutant research (X-Men v2 #12, p.18-19)

Figure 8: A file explains that Xavier’s father’s work facility at Almagordo Nuclear Research Facility was really a front for mutant research (X-Men v2 #12, p.18-19)

…along with fellow scientist Kurt Marko, father of the Juggernaut who went on to marry Sharon Xavier after Charles’s father died in a supposed accident at Almagordo.

Figure 9: When Charles was still a child, his father Dr. Brian Xavier had been killed during an atomic blast at the research facility he and his colleague Dr. Kurt Marko worked at. While Marko comforts Xavier's widow Sharon, young Charles never trusted him (and months later he knew why, when Marko proposed to Sharon Xavier from Uncanny X-Men #12, p.4)

Figure 9: When Charles was still a child, his father Dr. Brian Xavier had been killed during an atomic blast at the research facility he and his colleague Dr. Kurt Marko worked at. While Marko comforts Xavier’s widow Sharon, young Charles never trusted him (and months later he knew why, when Marko proposed to Sharon Xavier from Uncanny X-Men #12, p.4)

So there’s the thread to start my fix.

Figure 10: The investigators labeled the death of Brian Xavier while working at the research station at Almagordo, New Mexico as an accident (X-Men v2 #13, p.4)

Figure 10: The investigators labeled the death of Brian Xavier while working at the research station at Almagordo, New Mexico as an accident (X-Men v2 #13, p.4)

Figure 11: But while Kurt Marko double-crossed and murdered Charles’s father (Uncanny X-Men #12, p.7)...

Figure 11: But while Kurt Marko double-crossed and murdered Charles’s father (Uncanny X-Men #12, p.7)…

Figure 12: ...was there more behind his reason for doing so other than to marry Sharon and gain access to Brian’s fortune? (X-Men v2 #13, p.4)

Figure 12: …was there more behind his reason for doing so other than to marry Sharon and gain access to Brian’s fortune? (X-Men v2 #13, p.4)

That is, I would reveal that Brian Xavier’s death during his work at the research station, Almagordo, was not only an accident and connected with his smuggling some of Sinister’s REJECTS (i.e. the first Morlocks) out of there in order to prevent their deaths.

But where would he safely hide them from Sinister?

What if the network of tunnels beneath NYC revealed to have been constructed in the 1950s by the United States government for it and the military’s use, but later abandoned, was a cover story?  Did Brian Xavier use his government and military connections to construct these tunnels, extending to beneath his mansion, thus providing Sinister’s REJECTS with a community where their distorted physical appearances would be hidden away from humankind’s prejudice?

It also perhaps provided Xavier with a surreptitious means to get food, water, shelter and medicine to them.

Did the Xavier legacy for mutant rights therefore not begin with Charles, but instead with his father Brian?

I would posit that Brian’s efforts are eventually discovered by Kurt Marko who, fearing he would go to jail for his part in the Black Womb Program, kills him and makes it look like an accident.

Brian’s untimely death prevents him from ever revealing the truth to Charles, and so the community is left to fend for itself and goes on to fall under the leadership of Callisto.

I would posit though that just prior to his death, however, Xavier manages to get word to people within the U.S. government sympathetic to the rights of mutants about Sinister’s experiments within the Black Womb Program.

In the meantime, Marko reports what he has done to Sinister. Not wanting the full extent of his activities made public until his plans were fully formulated, Sinister moved his base off American soil.

He reopens shop in Genosha, a nation sympathetic with his eugenic goals.  They give him a free hand to continue his research, as long as the fruits of his labour provide their nation with significant economic benefit.

Sinister exceeds even his wildest expectations, achieving both goals in the one action.

You ask why I reveal Sinister as the mastermind behind the slave nation!  While any true X-Fan shouldn’t even be asking why I would retcon the grotesque oaf Sugar Man as the mysterious force behind Genosha, they should recall how X-Men: Prime, refers to Mister Edgerton (Genosha’s oldest and first recorded mutate) as the original Morlock (so yes I’m retconning AoA refugees Sugar Man and Dark Beast as the masterminds behind Genosha and the Morlocks respectively, and would instead reveal that McCoy only tampered with the Morlocks who became Gene Nation and took credit for their wider creation to establish his reputation as a villainous manipulator on par with the sinister vivisector).

Figure 11_XPRIME_OrigMutate

Figure 11: (X-Men: Prime, p.34-35)

Figure 13: (X-Men: Prime, p.34-35)

And so Sinister was, at first, tasked with finding the illegitimate daughter of one Lord Kelly (another recurring name) who was living in the “white ghettoes”… but even in the cesspool that was Victorian-era London too many missing people tended to draw unwanted attention, as became the case with those Whitechapel prostitutes.  That is after subjecting four of them to Sinister’s tests, the Club and the aristocracy, fearing not only that this would lead back to them, but also fearful of what would occur had certain physical powers gotten into the genetic code of society’s lowest members, the prostitutes were executed.

The Club, still desperate for genetically gifted bloodlines, facilitate a process whereby Sinister can continue to satisfy his need for genetically anomalous test subjects, and reward him with the position of doctor for London’s upper class.

And so he finds a surprisingly flourishing trade as an obstetrician, and one patient in particular proves to be most helpful – the young woman by the name of Amanda Mueller.

Figure 14: Amanda Mueller was coerced into being a birthing factory for the genetic experiments of Dr. Nathan Milbury, an alias for Mr. Sinister(Gambit v3 #20, p.12)

Figure 14: Amanda Mueller was coerced into being a birthing factory for the genetic experiments of Dr. Nathan Milbury, an alias for Mr. Sinister(Gambit v3 #20, p.12)

In exchange for helping her deal with the unwanted products of her… extramarital activities, she allows Sinister to keep her… unwanted offspring.  Unfortunately, the arrangement is outed by a London gossip columnist, and becomes known as the “Black Womb murders.”

Figure 15_Black Womb Murders

Figure 15: Amanda was accused of murdering her in utero children, and was given the name Black Womb. In 1891 she was acquitted of the child murder charges against her due to the testimony of obstetrician Dr. Nathan Milbury (Gambit v3 #13)

He helps Amanda vanish, and she becomes his most productive source of genetic material in the coming decades.

After he helps Amanda hide from the London authorities, the Club decides it is time for them to take their show on the road, so to speak.

It was a time of great scientific curiosity on the other side of the pond, so the Club decide that the land of opportunity will be a wonderful place for Sinister to continue his work. The melting pot will not let them down…

During this time he founds his Nebraska base, among others.

He decides that he should try and gather widespread information on the genetic diversity of American mutants.  But how to do so without causing a stir?  And then he realises the perfect means: The US government is looking for anything that might help them advance their power on a global scale.

World War One is a terrible time, but it also provides him an opportunity to approach certain fellow members of the scientific community.  It also allows him an opening into their uppermost circles of power.

He uses this persona as he accesses the American branch of the Hellfire Club to seek government funding for what he claims is eugenics work.  It isn’t that far off the mark, and is actually welcomed by the foolishly bigoted WASP power structure. What he is able to found is no less than Operation: Black Womb.

The project is simple: He will give the US government tidbits of the promise of genetic engineering, and they will give him near-unlimited funding and access to less-than-desirable castoffs of society…

They are eager to do so!  The mentally ill, racially-undesirable prisoners – prisoners of all kinds, actually – the disabled … Black Womb hardly discriminates.  He also is able to channel genetic data taken from socially acceptable people, culled from doctors’ offices across the country.

The program begins in 1927, or at least the first phase.  Brian Xavier is assigned to work with him to examine the effects of radiation on successive generations of humans.  Sinister, of course, already knows the potential such mutagenic energy could have … but when Brian volunteers Charles’ pregnant mother for an ‘accidental’ exposure, Sinister is willing to oblige.

Charles and Cassandra are the first product of Black Womb research.  Sharon evidently miscarries Cassandra, but Sinister takes the still-living sister and places her with one of the foster families in his network – people he had indebted to himself through various means.

Brian is initially terrified of the potential of mutants.  That was part of the reason he wanted his children to be mutants – he hopes that Charles will be defence against rogue mutations.  The irony really is delicious.

Around the same time, Sinister is asked to make his initial findings of mutagenetic advancement available to certain doctors involved in a very hush-hush project.  When Captain America first appears, he knows that his work has finally borne fruit.

So Sinister is tangentially involved in the Super-Soldier Program.  The doctors involved take mere theory and make it living, breathing flesh. I wonder if the good Captain would see it that way … but again, I get off the track.

Black Womb funding becomes scarce as the war effort ramps up.  Sinister is reassigned to OSS work.  The Americans are worried that the Germans will use concentration camp prisoners in genetic testing, and possibly have breakthroughs on the scale of the Super-Soldier Program.  So, with the cooperation that always existed between the secret government of the United States and the Nazi government of Germany (lead by sympathetic secret societies via such aristocrats as Zemo and Strucker), he becomes a scientist in the camps, conducting his own highly secret scientific experiments … and making his own breakthroughs.

He is far more merciful to his… subjects … than many of the so-called ‘doctors’ in those hellholes.  He is the one who kills and replaces a certain German officer in Poland, and he transfers a young Jewish lad who was demonstrating unusual control over metals.

You see, he could tell that Magnus was something special.  If he could have, Sinister would have gotten him out of Auschwitz far sooner, but those damned Nazis were too attentive.  To him, the entire Holocaust was a sickening waste of potential.

Figure 16: (Excalibur v3 #7, p. 9)

Figure 16: (Excalibur v3 #7, p. 9)

After he leaves Germany, just as Berlin is falling, he loses track of Magnus… still wondering what might have been.  In any case, he returns to America in late 1945, and finds Kurt Marko and Amanda Mueller still running Black Womb.

The government has become quite aware of the potential of superhuman mutation, after witnessing the Invaders in action.  The Super-Soldier Program becomes its own project, spinning off into the hands of eventually-deranged madmen, but Black Womb is permitted a certain degree of autonomy.

Thanks to the precognitive advice of a certain British emigre’ whom Sinister had targeted as a “genetic aberration,” they are able to isolate the foundations of several remarkable bloodlines.  Part of that, of course, is for his own pet projects – he never took his eye off of Scott’s family – but he is gratified to be able to trace the Grey, Drake, McCoy, Worthington, and even Munroe bloodlines…

Only Storm’s father, that is.  Sinister regrets that he does not have time to diversify his analysis systems to a global reach.  This would not come until after a series of catastrophes begin to spell death-knells for Black Womb.

The first is the passing of Kurt Marko.  Amanda and Sinister, being British emigres, are considered to be risky, at best, by their “black-budget” overseers.  Also, they have a lack of tangible achievements following World War Two.  The occasional breeding success, masked as a “miscarriage,” tends to be a low-powered mutant here or there, with a couple of exceptions – who have to be given to foster families because of security concerns.

The second is, sadly, Watson and Crick.  When their independent work into the genome becomes public, it becomes fashionable for government moneys to go towards “legitimate” genetic research – never mind the fact that Sinister is already 50 years ahead of those showboats.

The third is the Red Scare. It’s difficult to recruit top scientific researchers when they’re being terrorised by obsessive right-wing paranoiacs.  Also, military funding, which had been the foundation of Black Womb’s financial support, is being shifted towards other biological research programmes.

Postscript: Did Apocalypse, perhaps onto Sinister’s scheme to betray him, secretly manipulate Brian Xavier at the Black Womb project, to smuggle its “Rejects” into the tunnels beneath Manhattan (?another of his abandoned bases?)?

But to what end?

To answer this question I cast my mind back to how, after the Great Cataclysm, the Deviant priesthood was determined to destroy the Celestials for obliterating so much of their race and civilisation.  Hence, the priesthood assumed a new function.  At times designated as “Purity Time,” the priests would attempt to weed out those Deviants who were born with the most extreme and grotesque genetic differences from the others by publicly condemning them to death in the fire pits.

Figure 17: Karygmax ordering Cataphrax to submit to Purity Time (Eternals v2 #1, p.30)

Figure 17: Karygmax ordering Cataphrax to submit to Purity Time (Eternals v2 #1, p.30)

Through this measure the priests asserted that they hoped to keep variation within the Deviant race’s genetic makeup within certain limits.

Figure 18: (Eternals v2 #1, p.31)

Figure 18: (Eternals v2 #1, p.31)

However, in actuality, the priests did not kill the Deviants they supposedly condemned to death at Purity Time.

Figure 19: Kro exposes "Purity Time" as a falsehood (Eternals v2 #7, 19)

Figure 19: Kro exposes “Purity Time” as a falsehood (Eternals v2 #7, 19)

Instead, the priests secretly placed them in a form of suspended animation called “cold-sleep.”  Moreover, the priests used technological means to wipe the sleepers’ brains clean of their original personalities and to indoctrinate them to obey the priests unquestioningly when they finally awoke.  Through this means the priests built what they hoped would be an army, loyal to them alone, with which they would one day challenge the Celestials.  Over the millennia the priests’ sleeping army grew to number in the thousands.

Could this not, in effect, be what Apocalypse was up to!

Recall how Caliban the Morlock became his “First Hound” (from Rob Liefeld interview by Cliff Biggers, Comic Shop News #142, 13th of April 1990) and would usher in the bleak apocalyptic future shown in the iconic Days of Future Past!?

Figure 20: X-Factor #51, p. 22

Figure 20: X-Factor #51, p. 22

Did Apocalypse use Brian to supposedly condemn Sinister’s Rejects, whilst in reality he manipulated Xavier to move them to a safe place where he could use them later to shape his “Hounds” from and build a mutant army?  This is even more chilling, when one thinks that Apocalypse intended, like the Deviant priesthood, to challenge the Space Gods themselves, so was this the purpose of his planned mutant army?  Had the technology he had pillaged in the Celestial Ship been left behind by the Dreaming Celestial, and this is where Apocalypse stole his idea from?  I wonder if Cerebro’s failure to detect the existence of hundreds of mutants underneath New York City for so many years, yet being able to detect a single mutant presence half a world away, was intentional in its design!  Did Brian have a hand in its initial design, and accounted for this as directed by Apocalypse?

Did Sinister then discover Apocalypse’s plan to use these Rejects to recruit his Hounds from, and upon doing so ordered the Massacre enacted by the Marauders.  Perhaps Sinister also found out about Brian’s treachery, and convinced Marko to punish him for his betrayal.  But Marko performed his assigned task too well, and killed Brian before managing to extract the information of where Xavier had hidden the Rejects.  Is this why it took so long for Sinister to initiate the Massacre?

To read more of my theories about his long-term plans check out …Apocalypse’s Twelve plot?

A very big thank you goes out to fnord12 for his invaluable assistance compiling the obscure scans for this post. Fnord has taken on the nightmarish project of trying to physically assemble every Marvel comic and then write reviews/ breakdowns of them in chronological order at the Marvel Comics Chronology, and is a far far better man than I to wade into such murky waters.