Mister Sinister’s origin?

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

Figure 01_UX212_MrSinister

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

Figure 02_UX213_Flashback

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

Figure 03_UX221_Sinister1stappearance1

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

Figure 04_XF39_Mister Sinister dies

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

Figure 05_CXM41-2

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

Figure 06_CXM41

…and whom Claremont intended to actually be Mister Sinister.

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

Figure 07a_FACP03Figure 07b_FACP04

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

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

Figure 08a_UXM02Figure 08b_UXM02Figure 08c_UXM02

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 09a_CXM41

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

Figure 09b_CXM 041

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

Or so it would seem at a cursory glance!

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

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

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

Figure 10b_XFAC39

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

Figure 10a_CXM41

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

Figure 11_XMF07

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 12_UXM221_Mr. Sinister

But how!

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

Figure 13_XMF01-03Figure 11_XMF07

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

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

Figure 14_A102_Vision

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

Figure 15_UXM241

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

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

Figure 16_XFA039

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

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

Figure 17_MTU69

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

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

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

Figure 18_XFAC35_Pods

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

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

Figure 19_UXM239

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

Figure 20_UXM239

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

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

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

Figure 15_UXM241

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 23_UXM241

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

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

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

Figure 24_UXM12

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

Figure 25_UXM13

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

Figure 26a_UXM12

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

Figure 26b_UXM12

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

Figure 27_UXN Annual 11

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

Figure 28_UXM11

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

So could Cyttorak be an anti-mutant force here…

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

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

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

Figure 29_UXM12

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

How so?

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

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

Figure 30_Strange Tales 125, 126, 128

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

Figure 31_Strange Tales 143

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

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

Figure 32_UXM243

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

Figure 33_UXM243

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

Figure 34a_UXM243Figure 34b_UXM243

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

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

Figure 35_UXM13

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

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

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

Figure 36a_CXM41Figure 36b_CXM41

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

Figure 37a_UXM241Figure 37b_XFA39Figure 37c_XFA39Figure 37d_XFA39

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

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

Figure 38_Cyttorak

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

Figure 37_AWC64

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

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

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…Nightcrawler’s parentage?

During the early part of his X-Men run with John Byrne, Chris Claremont got the idea that the ruler of the dimension of dreams, Nightmare, who had pointy ears just like Nightcrawler’s, should be revealed as his father (further reasoning that the dimension through which Kurt travelled while teleporting was the same as the dream dimension).

However, as Nightmare was a long-time Doctor Strange villain, Roger Stern, who was writing the eponymous title at the time, did not like the idea, recalling in Back Issue #29:

“Too many people in the Marvel Universe are secretly related to one another, and it’s much more interesting when mutants have normal parents.”

Stern subsequently became editor of X-Men and was able to ensure that this didn’t happen for long enough that Chris was forced to change his mind (yet hypocritically allowed long-time friend John Byrne reveal Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver as the children of Magneto).

In Uncanny X-Men #142 (1981), Nightcrawler met the shape-shifting mutant Mystique, who had a physical resemblance to him.  In the issue she told him that his adoptive mother Margali Szardos could answer his question about who she was.

But Nightcrawler never asked Margali.

In Uncanny X-Men #204 (1986), Nightcrawler rescued a new character, Judith Rassendyll, from the hitman Arcade. Afterwards, Judith learned that she was the last of the Elfburgs and heir to the throne of the European country Ruritania.

Uncanny X-Men #204 had been advertised in Marvel Age #36:

“It’s the start of an epic adventure that will take Nightcrawler from the wilds of Central Park to the back woods of Europe… Nightcrawler deals with his fears about the Beyonder, a love-life that’s falling apart, and the truth about himself and his origin.”

In Comics Focus #1, Claremont told:

“We started to do his origin and the story died on us.  We set up, we started it rolling, tried to hammer it into something of value, and it died.  This happens.  Once in a while you’ll run into a story that’s a major dud, it just will not fly, no matter how much air you pipe into the wings.  So, we rewrote the ending of the story and instead did one with Rachel Summers, Wolverine and the Hellfire Club, which led up to the Mutant Massacre, which turned out to be a much more powerful and effective storyline.”

Unfortuntely, Nightcrawler’s origin story was cut short in Uncanny X-Men #206 (1986), with Kurt not accompanying Judith Rassendyll to Ruritania.  It was never revealed who had hired Arcade to kill Judith, but it was probably someone who didn’t want her to ascend to the throne of Ruritania.

Judith reappeared in the Excalibur Special Edition #2: Mojo Mayhem (1989) where she was now Princess of Ruritania and about to enter into an arranged marriage. Despite romantic attraction between Kurt and Judith, she has never appeared again.

When Nightcrawler joined Excalibur in 1988, Claremont announced in Amazing Heroes #134:

“One of the storylines we will seriously try to play with is Nightcrawler’s origin. We would’ve done that in X-Men, but the story was such a dud, I decided not to do it. Hopefully now we’ll try again and do it right. Everyone has been wondering why Nightcrawler and Mystique look alike.”

However, his origin didn’t happen in the pages of Excalibur either, but a 64 pages Excalibur hardcover graphic novel was announced in Marvel Age Preview #1 to ship in December 1990:

“Chris Claremont and Alan Davis continue their Excalibur collaboration with the biography of Kurt Wagner – Nightcrawler, from his birth to his rescue at the hands of Charles Xavier. We will finally learn more of the mysterious connection between Nightcrawler and Mystique!”

However, the graphic novel never appeared either, and Nightcrawler’s origin ended up being written by Scott Lobdell in X-Men Unlimited #4, 1994, instead. Lobdell did not follow Claremont’s ideas, but claimed in Seriejournalen.dk:

“It was always Chris’ plan that Mystique and Irene Adler (Destiny) were lovers, and that Mystique at one point had transformed into a man and impregnated Destiny and she gave birth to Nightcrawler. So Mystique and Destiny were actually Nightcrawler’s father and mother. The likelihood of either A, Mystique growing genitals with sperm that had a DNA-code, or B, Mystique being a guy who was perpetually in the body of a woman, I thought was pretty slim.”

Instead, Lobdell had Mystique be Nightcrawler’s mother with Destiny playing no part in the equation.

However, in his online Cordially Chris forum (24 June, 2003), Claremont himself stated:

“Regarding Mystique, I always considered her default form to be blue-skinned and female.”

So even as recent as 2003, it seems despite subsequent claims from a number of sources, Claremont can’t have really intended Mystique to be Nightcrawler’s father.

But I’m not necessarily suggesting Mystique was Nightcrawler’s mother, either.

You see, in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (1980), Margali Szardos summons the Eye of Agamotto off Dr. Strange and uses it to reveal:

“…the infant Kurt Wagner — barely an hour old — found beside his dying mother, taken in by the Gypsy Witch-Queen Margali Szardos, and raised as one of her own.”

When using the Eye of Agamotto at this moment, Kurt is bathed in a powerful mystical light that allowed the past events of how she found him by the roadside as a baby.

In Uncanny X-Men #142 (Feb 81), in the ensuing fight with Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants when the X-Men stop their assassination attempt on Senator Robert Kelly, Nightcrawler notes that her “true form – meingott, we are so alike!” and upon asking her “Who are you?!” she replies “Ask… your mother, Margali Szardos. Who would better know than — she?”.

Then, in Uncanny X-Men #170 (Jun 83), captions written by Chris for the dream sequence where Mystique is getting hunted by Lady Jean Grey and Sir Jason Wyngarde, note it to be occurring in “1783, the place England, their quarry a woman who will not be born for another 170 years”, indicating she was born in 1953 (exactly 30 years before the story’s setting).

So despite later suggestions that Chris decided Kurt’s mother as Destiny, and his father was Mystique, there is no way Raven could have been Kurt’s parent without time-travel being involved.

But wait, there’s more.

In Uncanny X-Men #177 (Jan 84) Kurt is beginning to question Margali’s account of him as a foundling as a result of leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, Mystique’s response to him in Uncanny X-Men #142 when he asked if there was a connection between them that he “ask your mother, ask Margali Szardos.”  When he subsequently asks his girlfriend “Who am I…? Where do I come from?! What is my real family?” Amanda Sefton responds “I know what Mom told me — she found you, new-born and barely alive, in a roadside shelter in the Black Forest. A man — your father, I guess — lay outside…”

It is not unlikely that this contradiction is intentional, given Kurt’s questioning of Margali’s account to Amanda, in their conversation in #177, to such an extent as “Did she even try to find my family?”

So how can Margali’s story, revealed by the Eye of Agamotto, be reconciled with what Mystique said in Uncanny X-Men#142?

In the earlier half of Uncanny X-Men #177, when Mystique kills six of the seven X-Men robot simulacrums which she hired from Arcade to help her prepare for battle with the real X-Men when she planned to return Rogue to her and Irene, recall she hesitates when it comes to the robot Nightcrawler.

While this could be used as further evidence to suggest she was always intended as Kurt’s biological mother, when Destiny says “You could not harm a facsimile Nightcrawler — how will you fare against the man himself? If he’s killed…” Mystique responds “Be silent, woman! Mention him again… at your peril. The X-Men have my child and if I have to slaughter them all to rescue her, then I shall!”

And just prior to this, after her hesitation with the Nightcrawler robot, Mystique discusses with Arcade about how to conduct further training sessions (with always one android set to kill) meaning that she wants to be ready to kill Kurt if that was “necessary” to “rescue” Rogue.

It doesn’t make sense that she would believe it was necessary for her to kill her biological son in order to “rescue” her foster daughter?!

Applying logic to Mystique’s statement would lead to the conclusion that almost plenty of possible relationships were more likely than Kurt being her biological son, especially if you factor in that Mystique apparently was:

  • only 30 years old per Uncanny X-Men #170 (and at that point there was no reason to assume that time-travel was somehow involved), and
  • that she said to Kurt in Uncanny X-Men #142 when he asked “Who are you?”, “Ask your mother, Margali Szardos. Who would know better than she?”

This showed she knew an awful lot about Kurt Wagner before then, even about his pre-X-Men days, for Kurt had been out of touch with Margali since before his first appearance in Giant-Size X-Men #1 (1975), and both us readers and the X-Men only learned about her in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 (1980; it came out one month before Uncanny X-Men #142).

This further indicates that not only did Mystique know about Margali, but Margali also knew about Mystique, by all evidence before Mystique came to wider attention (her debut was in 1978 in Ms. Marvel #18).

This would make it very likely that the stories Margali told Kurt and Amanda about finding baby Nightcrawler next to his dead mother or father may not have been true or have left out crucial details.

All of which brings up the following question:

If Kurt is Mystique’s son and she was aware that Margali Szardos had him, why didn’t she try to retrieve him?

Whereas if she was Kurt’s sister, possibly only a few years older than him, one could say that she was too young to do anything about Margali taking him away from her.

Of course there are other possible scenarios.

Recall that upon Margali summoning the Eye of Agamotto from Dr. Strange in Uncanny X-Men Annual #4 and using it, at this moment Kurt was bathed in a powerful mystical light, the same light that allowed Dr. Strange to see past events!

So it’s unlikely the images and memories it unfolded (particularly of Kurt being found beside his dead father) were faked by Margali as is later claimed since the mystical light the Eye of Agamotto emitted previously allowed Dr. Strange to see through all illusions.

Its light can dissolve illusions: “Nothing evil can bask for long in its glow!” Strange Tales #116…

…and it can play back recent past events in an area (because “light waves never completely disappear”), Strange Tales #120

And when Amanda recalled her mother telling her she found him beside the body of his dead mother, perhaps she was just recalling the incorrect parent as Margali had told her when she was much younger.

So what if Kurt was the biological son of Margali and Mystique’s late beloved elder brother (let’s call him Mr. Szardos) – quite possibly a shape-shifter like herself – and Jimaine(Amanda) was an adoptive child*?

Mr. Szardos could have met his (probably violent) end around the time of Kurt’s birth, and that would have inspired the cover story of Margali finding the child by the roadside (maybe she wanted to hide the fact that she had given birth to a child that looked so much like a demon and thus pretended that the foundling Amanda was her biological child and Kurt the foundling).

So Margali as Kurt’s actual mother would have the better right to raise him than his aunt Mystique, but she can’t help thinking of her late brother whom she misses so much whenever she sees Kurt, and she sheds a silent tear…

So in conclusion there is no need or reason to assume that Chris made a mistake in Uncanny X-Men #170 (which he wrote with the mysterious connection between Kurt and Mystique already in place).  The likelihood of Kurt being Raven’s son was extremely remote as it would have required stuff like time-travel, forced aging, false memories or what have you to work.

While Kurt in any case, also as brother or nephew, would in all likelihood have been Mystique’s only living blood relation, to me that is strong enough a reason for her to behave as she did in Uncanny X-Men #177.

So the later claim that Chris intended Nightcrawler to be the biological son of Mystique and Destiny which editorial would never let fly, the fact that he earlier indicated abandoning the origin for Kurt he planned to emerge out of Judith Rassendyll’s introduction because it just wasn’t clicking for him, I’d suggest this wasn’t what he intended from those earlier stories and the above is more likely.

So how to explain Chris’s later introduction of the Mr. Raven character working alongside Irene Adler in X-Men: True Friends set in 1936?

I have no idea, but let me leave you with the following…

After Roger Stern refused to allow Claremont to proceed with revealing Nightmare as Kurt’s father, it is interesting to note that before Chris began overtly implying a relationship between Mystique and Destiny (beginning, I’d suggest with Uncanny X-Men #170) he “plundered” recurring Ka-Zar the Savage series villain and demon-sorcerer of Limbo, Belasco, for the X-corner of the Marvel Universe for several years hence.

In addition, not only did Belasco have pointy ears like Nightmare, and as sorcerer-priest of Limbo, rulership of a demonic dimension, but a forked, prehensile tail like Nightcrawler.

Almost immediately after procuring Belasco as a villain for the X-titles, Claremont revealed the Elder Gods the demon-sorcerer served as his very own Elder Gods, the N’Garai.

It is worth noting here that Claremont named his Elder Gods after the Basque term for conquerors, “Garai” (Chris would well have known this given he further referred to the cult of humans dedicated to these demons as the Camarilla of the N’Garai, “camarilla” a particularly Basque term).

So does this explain why Chris suddenly latched onto Belasco as an X-villain?  That is, upon realising his name was Spanish/ Basque for “little raven”, bela- being raven and “-sco” meaning little.

Of further note is that Belasco made a deal with his “Elder Gods” for immortality on the basis he would return to earth and become the “Father” of a new race of Earth-Born Demons.

Recall too in the Magik Limited Series, out of those X-Men who survived becoming entrapped in Limbo trying to rescue Colossus’s younger sister, Illyana, Storm and Kitty got corrupted by the demonic realm but remained independent, whereas Kurt was the one who fell most under Belasco’s control, becoming his “familiar”.

So was Claremont entertaining Nightcrawler as an Earth-born demon, and Belasco as his Father (and Margali Szardos perhaps his biological mother)?

Post-script: Chris confirmed my suspicions that Jimaine was not Margali’s biological daughter, but one of her foundlings, in his recent Nightcrawler series, specifically issue #2 (2014).