the origin of Marvel’s Limbo?

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

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

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

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

Alice in Wonderland battling the demonic Jabberwocky

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

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

evidence of Matt Murdock's faith from Daredevil #282

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

So who else?

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

Fantastic Four Annual 3 Church Wedding

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

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

The answer I’d suggest is two-fold.

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

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

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

Susan being tortured by Mephisto from Fantastic Four #277

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

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

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

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

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

Still…

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

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

Sue's miscarriage from Fantastic Four #267

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

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

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-script:

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

Watcher acknowledging his base in Limbo from Strange Tales 134

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has the Celestial Madonna been Susan Richards all along?

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

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

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

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

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

Then who else could she be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we perhaps seen this “child” before?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immortus, proclaiming himself lord of Limbo in Avengers 131

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

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

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

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

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

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

The planet Phantus from Thor 281

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and see Earth from Limbo…

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

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

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

Advertisements

…Cable’s origin?

Figure 00_prophetcable1

Rob Liefeld had originally planned for Cable to be a traveller from thousands of years in the future who journeyed back to our time to combat specific menaces that threatened the future of the Marvel Universe, intending Kang the Conqueror as chief among these threats.  To support this Rob reveals, in Prophet/Cable #1, that Prophet was originally intended to be a police officer from the future sent by Kang, a warlord in his era, to bring back Cable.  While this never came to be, here’s my attempt to increase his importance in the wider Marvel Universe… but with a twist;)

In Chris Claremont’s End of Greys tale the Shi’ar, in an effort to prevent the manifestation of the Phoenix through her descendants, decide to end Rachel Grey’s line by having their Death Commandos slay the entire Grey family (cf. Uncanny X-Men #467-468).

Figure 01_Uncanny X-Men V1 468 - 11

In Uncanny X-Men #468, Rachel wonders why the Shi’ar missed Cable when he’s her carries the genes of her mother’s clone.

Figure 02_Uncanny X-Men V1 468 - 21

We know the Shi’ar have technology far exceeding anything even Mr. Sinister would possess in determining Cable’s lineage, and yet they choose not to involve him in their purge.

Figure 03_Cable V1 06

This would seem to put an end to the erroneous argument that Cable is the offspring of Jean Grey’s clone…

Figure 04_mother of Nathan Summers, Madelyne Pryor_Uncanny X-Men V1 241

…and goes along with his creator Rob Liefeld’s own hope “that one day, the Askani aspect will be revealed as a dream, a hoax or an imaginary story and that Cable’s true identity will be revealed” (Robservations XI: The Secret Origin of Cable)

Interestingly Chris Claremont also contended on Comixfan that it was never his intention for Rachel to evolve into “Mother Askani”!

Figure 05_Rachel as Mother Askani_Cable V1 23

So here I am again with a solution, this time for how the Askani aspect of Cable’s origin can be revealed as inaccurate.

Figure 06_Soldier X 08

I’d do this by firstly suggesting that young Nathan Christopher Summers and Cable are not the same being.

Figure 07_Nathan Summers of Earth-161

Okay then!

Endgame” did happen, and I felt I should make it work, so in line with Fabian et. al., I’d retain the account that young Nathan Christopher Summers was infected by Apocalypse because the Celestial caretaker had been advised that the infant would somehow prevent his ascension.

Figure 08_Nathan infected by Apocalypse

Hence Askani appears on the scene and offers to take him through time to cure him of the infection.

Figure 09_Askani takes Nathan to cure

However, in line with Claremont’s contention that Askani might not have been intended to be from 4000 AD, I’d instead reveal Cable was from the alternate world, Warlord’s Earth, where Nathaniel Richards dwelt.

Figure 10_What If v2 39 p10

I say alternate world because in X-Factor #67 on page 6, the world that Apocalypse rules (and Askani hails from) is referred to as “Sidereal scantime.” So it’s a SIDE REALITY, as Other Earth is.

Figure 11_X-Factor 67_Sidereal

I’d further reveal the Askani Sisterhood as a future version of the matriarchal society of the Eyrie on Warlord’s Earth, as shown by John Byrne in Fantastic Four #273.

Figure 12_Eyriennes from Fantastic Four 273

Upon being cured of his techno-organic infection, I’d propose the Askani placed him in the care of this timeline’s Richards clan who are descendants of this timeline’s Franklin Richards and Rachel Grey.

Nathan Christopher Summers is hence raised as a Richards to protect his identity from Clan Akkaba’s spies who will stop at nothing to kill him since he is destined to become Apocalypse’s greatest enemy.

2eb4gnt

Young Nathan is then secretly trained in the use of his powers, in much the same way 1A trained Magnus the Robot Fighter (but perhaps still ignorant of his true identity).

Figure 13_1A training Magnus the Robot Fighter

Upon discovering the truth, he embraces his destiny, and travels back in time to become Rama-Tut with the aim of preventing the High Lord from becoming “all-powerful”.

Figure 14_FF273_Kang

Unfortunately, in an ironic twist, the Fantastic Four return to the same period…

Figure 15_Fantastic Four's arrival in ancient Egypt_Fantastic Four V1 19

…and it is their interference…

Figure 16_Rama-Tut's defeat_Fantastic Four V1 19

…that prevents Rama-Tut from stopping Apocalypse before he begins his meteoric rise to power.

Figure 17_Apocalypse rise to power in Egypt

As for Cable’s true identity, around the same time as his introduction there was another character in the Marvel Universe having similar features.

That is, Nathaniel Richards Senior – Reed’s father.

Figure 18_Fantastic Four V1 375 - 45

In addition, Cable regularly used the Askani curse-phrase “stab his eyes”…

Figure 20_Cable Blood-Metal 02 - 28

…and when Nathaniel was reintroduced during Tom De Falco’s run on Fantastic Four he was teaching Franklin curses including “Stab my eyes”…

Figure 21_Fantastic Force 09 - 16

….which seemed to imply that the reality he raised his grandson in was one where the Askani held sway.

This could further resolve why Cable’s first name is Nathan.

But fret not!  I’m not suggesting this is because he is Nathan Richards Senior…

…rather that he is the unnamed son from Nathaniel Richards Senior’s marriage to Cassandra, Warlord of Otherworld.

Figure 22_Fantastic Four V1 272 - 21

Figure 22_Fantastic Four V1 272 - 22

While completely out there, look at the similarities in their armour; that worn by Cable during New Mutants #90…

Figure 23_New Mutants v1 90

…and moreso during the Sabotage X-Over in X-Force #3…

Figure 24_X-Force v1 03 - 09

…and Spider-Man #16…

Figure 25_Spider-Man V1 16 - 12Figure 26_Spider-Man V1 16 - 13

Figure 27_Spider-Man V1 16 - 16-17

…was almost identical to Nathaniel Richards Senior’s psi-armour worn during flashbacks in Fantastic Four #390 (p. 10)…

Figure 25_Fantastic Four V1 390 - 11

…and #393 (p. 4).

Figure 29_Fantastic Four V1 393 - 04

I would posit that Cable’s armour was meant to be psi-armour rather than generic (which could be used in concert with his telekinesis to absorb Juggernaut impacts), and this is the reason it looked so similar to that worn by Richards.

This would further explain why, as stated in Cable’s costume specifications in his Marvel Universe Master Edition #3 entry, the various suits of body armour he wore were of “unknown composition”.

Figure 25

Furthermore, the armour worn by Reed Richards during his “battle-in-time” with Dr. Doom during Fantastic Four #352 was extremely similar to that worn by Nathaniel and Cable.

Fantastic Four V1 352 - 12

So Cable wears this trademark armour due to his being the son and heir of Nathaniel Richards Senior and a time-traveller like his father, since that would appear to be the function of that worn by both Nathaniel and Reed; and claims affiliation with Cyclops and Nathan Summers as a cover story.

Why?

Maybe Nathaniel Senior discovers the destiny of young Nathan Christopher Summers, and raises his and Cassandra’s unnamed son to travel to Earth-616 and begin involving himself in missions that would eventually suggest to Apocalypse that he was in fact young Nate.

In this way they could prevent Apocalypse from realising what the Richards Clan were really up to.  That is, training Nathan Summers to go back in time and prevent his rise as Rama-Tut.

I feel the revelation of Cable being a Richards would also fulfil Rob Liefeld’s plan of his being a technologically advanced time-traveller with a strong science background (since science certainly runs in the Richards family).

This is why Reed’s father, at times, appears enigmatic and his occasional machinations seem opposed to the Fantastic Four.  Nathaniel Sr. can’t reveal the truth to them for fear that Apocalypse may discover the truth.  That and he is still miffed at their interference in preventing Rama-Tut from putting a stop to Apocalypse.

As mentioned above Claremont’s End of Greys storyline puts an end to the argument that Cable is the offspring of Jean Grey’s clone.

In addition, it is more likely, as I suggest, that Cable hails from an alternate earth, rather than the far flung future of 4000 AD. Cable can still be a time-traveller and travel from Earth-6311 to Earth-616, as time machines have previously been proven to be able to access both realities.

It is further doubtful that Cable travelled from this future to our present, since after Pryde’s Time-Switch, the Hierarchy set in motion appropriate counter-measures installing Ahab and his Sentinels and Hounds at the temporal Nexus to prevent any further time travel from the future back to the modern era…

Figure 29

…so Cable would have been prevented from travelling from the future to our era prior to 1990.

While one could argue that Bishop had done the same, this was only after Claremont had Ahab defeated and Cable had arrived in our era prior to this.

If we maintain Cable was a alternity traveller, this further supports my theory that he did not come from the 4000 AD, but rather the period of Warlord’s Earth that Nathaniel Richards Sr. had settled in (hence my positing above that he is Nathaniel’s other unnamed son, by way of Cassandra).

All that’s left to figure out now is how Cable knew the Master of the Hounds, Ahab in Uncanny X-Men Annual #14 (and no I don’t believe the two were originally intended to be the same character and here is my reason why).

Postscript: What would make this whole scenario perfect for me is for the Shi’ar to eventually make an attempt on one of the incarnations of Nathaniel Richards Jr., whether that be Rama-Tut, Kang or Immortus.

…bad Galactus stories?

Bad Galactus stories

Fantastic Four aficionado, Chris Tolworthy, comes to the rescue with this second guest post in quick succession to his last, here!

This “how would you fix” is about pretty much every Galactus story after the original classic.  Even the good ones raise difficult questions; and the bad ones are awful.  Yet there is a logic to them if we look closely.  A solution is found by comparing Fantastic Four #262, Annual #23 and #604.  Yes, #604.  Normally I run screaming from any Fantastic Four number dated after 1990, but this one deserves attention.

Before continuing, I must stress that I rely heavily on the Fantastic Four as the core text, and mainly issues before #322.  I refer to very few others.  I am an unrepentant Fantastic Four fanboy, and am apt to pick holes in other comics while defending the Fantastic Four as Great Literature, so be warned.  Also, spoilers ahead…

Let’s start with the problem with later Galactus stories.  Fantastic Four #48-50 (the Galactus trilogy, and more) is the gold standard for superhero comics.  Utterly superb.  Yet later appearances (even by Stan Lee… well actually ESPECIALLY by Stan Lee) show a different and inferior Galactus.  Here are some examples:

1. The original Galactus visit was a one off event.  The Watcher said of these forces “you shall never see their like again!”  Yet we allegedly “see their like again” regularly in later years.

2. Galactus seems unaware of where the Skrull throne world should be.  So either he travels so widely that he would not expect to visit the same galaxy twice within a few thousand years, or he travels at random and avoids maps.  Either way, why does he keep coming back to Earth?

3. “Of all who inhabit the known universe, only GALACTUS has powers enough to match my own!” – so said the Watcher.  We can quibble over the exact meaning of this phrase, but at the very least we cannot expect any Earth bound power or collection of powers to defeat him.  Yet in later appearances he is routinely defeated.

4. The Silver Surfer is different.  The original Surfer features in Skrull history books, books that less informed Skrulls have not read, suggesting that he’s been around a long time.  But there is no indication in the origin that the Surfer is any younger than Galactus.  Galactus seems unaware of the Surfer’s full power: “Your power is far greater than I suspected, herald.”  The surfer does not understand beauty or self-sacrifice: “there is a word some races use… a word I have never understood… until now!  At last I know… BEAUTY!” and “I have learned from the HUMANS how glorious it can be to have a cause worth dying for!”  Yet in later appearances we are told that Norrin Rad became the Surfer in order to save his home world, and his beloved Shalla Bal, who can still pass for a young woman (cf. Fantastic Four #153-155).  Granted, perhaps the Surfer’s race lives a long time, but this really sounds like a different person.

5. The original Galactus does not get hungry quickly: “All ETERNITY awaits me! I can afford to be patient!”  Yet the later Galactus is always hungry: “You must be swift! My hunger grows UNENDURABLE!” (FF76)

6. The original Galactus can never lie.  “The promise of GALACTUS is living TRUTH itself! His word can never be questioned!”  Yet when he came back he said he promised never to return, but was considering breaking the promise.  (Actually he never promised not to return, he simply promised not to tarry, so this is another change.)

7. The original Galactus is part of an advanced race.  As the Watcher said, “Did not YOUR race… and MINE… evolve from such humble beginnings?”  Yet the later Galactus was a lone survivor of a world that, while more advanced than ours, was more like “gnats” than “gods.”

8. The original Galactus has a symbol of an eternal arrow on his chest (often mistaken for a letter G).  Later Galactuses do not.  They also alternate with sleeves or not, visible eyes or not, highly muscular arms or not.  The ship changes completely as well: from a sphere to a wing to a cube.

9. I gather that other comics feature problematic origin stories.  I think those problems will resolve themselves once we understand what Galactus is and how he operates.

Now let’s look at a solution to the problems.  Our first exhibit is the backup story in Fantastic Four Annual #23.  It follows from a similar backup story in Annual 22, and both could be considered together.  They give an overview of the highest powers in the universe, and I would like to draw your attention to a comment about the Celestials.  A certain character in another comic was shown defeating Celestials.  But that is just because it suited the Celestials for him to believe that.  The stories also show that scale is largely an illusion, and there is much we do not know (the Beyonders, for example, are barely known at all).  This is as we should expect: advanced beings are not like us.  They do not look or think or act like us.  We can draw some conclusions, but those conclusions may be surprising. Let’s go, shall we?

Advanced beings probably operate on higher dimensions.  This means one being might have multiple appearances in this world.  Imagine your 3D body appearing in a 2D world.  Like putting your hand slowly through the 2D surface of a bath of water.  To that surface, your hand appears as 5 separate shapes, then those shapes join, change shape, get thicker… one being appears as multiple slightly different beings!  We can see this already in the real world: as people we exist online as avatars.  One person can have many avatars at the same time.  As Artificial Intelligence improves, our avatars could even answer questions on our behalf.  We can exist as multiple beings!

Now recall the Watcher’s comment that there are basically just two powerful beings: the Watcher and Galactus.  It seems reasonable to suppose that the Beyonders, Celestials, etc., are merely aspects of Galactus.  Galactus tests planets (eating those that cannot hide), the Celestials test planets (Arishem the judge), the Beyonders test planets (by providing rewards for those who reach a certain level), and so on.  I further submit that each Galactus is a different aspect of the one Galactus, hence the different appearance, history, and behaviour.  The Surfer may also have been raised to a higher dimension to gain his powers, explaining his different versions.

Our next exhibit is Fantastic Four #262, and follows from the previous discussion: we are shown (in the Trial of Reed Richards) that each civilisation sees Galactus in its own image.  We have the Galactus that most suits us at a particular time.  Remember that the highest powers in the universe tend to personify concepts, such as Eternity, or the Living Tribunal.  It seems likely that the Watchers personify knowledge and Galactus personifies testing or truth (the same thing).  It is only natural that these concepts change according to who interacts with them.

The final exhibit is Fantastic Four #604, the climax to Jonathan Hickman’s long arc.  My view is that after issue #321 we see different realities slipping in and out of focus, so I take most later stories with a pinch of salt (with the exception of Claremont’s run: he appears to use the original Fantastic Four).  However, Franklin exists across dimensions, so every Franklin appearance counts as canon.  But this is not an essay about Franklin, so I will cut to the chase.  I did warn you about spoilers, didn’t I?  OK, here is the conclusion to Hickman’s 50 issue arc: Galactus is the herald of Franklin.  Yes, you read that right.  Don’t act horrified.  It makes sense if we step back and look at the nature of Franklin’s power.

Franklin basically connects realities.  I won’t go into details, but he is a doorkeeper.  He lets the entire universe (or a part of it) slip into an alternate universe.  By letting people switch universes he appears to be creating or changing entire universes, but it’s more subtle than that.  It’s more like connecting doorways, except you do not physically walk through any door, the normal passage of time does the walking for you.  It’s all quite simple and subtle really. As Annual #23 said, scale is an illusion.  But this is not an essay about Franklin.

If Franklin’s power is to connect universes, and Galactus personifies testing, it follows naturally that Galactus is the herald of Franklin because every test leads to a new state of the universe (e.g. one where we have defeated Galactus or one where we are destroyed).  All the rest of it, the explosions and battles and Kirby dots and such, is just how we experience this higher dimensional testing and connecting.  Galactus only appears in his big G form when the test is of a particular type.

OK, with that understanding (Galactus adapts to us, and is attracted to Franklin), let us examine the appearances of Galactus in the core Fantastic Four timeline:

Fantastic Four #48-50: this was the great test. Galactus finds the Earth at random, and he represents all the grandeur of the universe, as you would expect.  Notice that the Ultimate Nullifier is basically a crude Franklin tool: it jumps everything to a different reality.

The next appearance of Galactus, Fantastic Four 74: One year later (1967) Sue learns she is pregnant with Franklin.  She learns in Annual #5, a Microverse story.  Soon after, in another Microverse story, Galactus feels drawn back to Earth against his will (“Galactus did VOW to NEVER RETURN– and yet, he is HERE!”) and is inexplicably desperately hungry.  Ironically the boys are rushing around like mad things (seriously this is probably the busiest arc ever) and they think they are letting Sue rest.  But the real story is going on inside Sue’s womb: Franklin’s stress hormones are dragging Galactus to Earth.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #122: Franklin’s life is relatively uneventful for a few years (except for the birth, but this was probably a Caesarian due to the complications, so Franklin probably didn’t feel too stressed).  But by the age of four Franklin is old enough to realise what is going on, and it coincides with the beginnings of the family problems that I call Act Four.  (Although Franklin is four years old in 1972 he only lets himself appear as two years old.)  Franklin must be worried, as Galactus is drawn back to the Earth, and acts like a four year old: he looks like a toy soldier with bulging muscles, and acts very dumb (tripped over by Ben, and has an easy to access spacecraft with a gigantic self-destruct button).  He even plays with a roller coaster and giant train set.  He is basically molded to Franklin’s four year old brain.  He is announced by Franklin’s nanny, Agatha Harkness, Agatha watches throughout, and he (Galactus) ends up in Franklin’s home turf, the Negative Zone.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #172: Though Franklin is brain zapped in the #140s he isn’t really aware of this (he is far more concerned with what happens to his family).  Franklin is next aware of major problems when his uncle Ben fights against the family, then loses his powers and is replaced and fights them again.  Franklin’s eight year old brain (appearing as three years old) has a typical eight year old solution: he unconsciously has a new, better Earth built, and summons Galactus there so his family can prove once again that they do the right thing.  And how does his eight year old brain get rid of Galactus this time?  By giving him indigestion!

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #212: Franklin is getting older and better at controlling things: Galactus is becoming more of a friend.  The family experiences a new crisis – Sue and Reed and Ben age and almost die, so Franklin unconsciously summons Galactus to help against the Sphinx.  Obviously he doesn’t just say “come here Galactus” – it is all unconscious through manipulating reality so that others do the job, but the result is the same.  When he finally masters his powers in Fantastic Four #604 then yes, he does say “to me, my Galactus.”  Of course Galactus still asks for his dinner, but that is just how the test always goes, and the family always passes the test.

The next appearance, Fantastic Four #243-44: The most traumatic experience in Franklin’s life (pre-Waid) is when he is hung upside down as fresh meat for Annihilus.  This trauma not only drags his parents back from Reed’s Negative Zone debacle, but also drags Galactus along.  By now Galactus and Franklin are best buds in whatever higher plane they occupy.  It plays out in this reality as Reed saving the big G’s life and becoming BFF.  And that ends the Galactus threat.  At least as far as the original Fantastic Four is concerned (i.e. pre 1989, pre Fantastic Four #322).

As for other appearances, origin stories, etc., what we see is merely our four dimensional glimpse of a five dimensional reality.  We only ever see a partial Galactus, a Galactus-adapted-to-our-needs, or more likely a story made up by the Bullpen.  Only the Fantastic Four report directly to the Bullpen: other comics include wild speculation, especially where secret identities are concerned.  So we should not get too hung up on the details if some other version of Galactus is a bit odd.  Untangling it is half the fun.

Note: Fantastic Four #257 was part of their seventh encounter, when they had become friends.  Note the Biblical significance (6 is struggle, as in 666, 7 represents peace, as in resting on the seventh day, 7 angels, etc.). The Fantastic Four have six battles, leading to the seventh encounter as friends. Hmmm.

…Shatterstar’s origin?

Spiral Path

Readers will recall in Uncanny X-Men #209 Phoenix is abducted by Spiral.

We never found out what occurred to her between this story and her appearance in Excalibur Special Edition #1.

More recently (i.e. 2005) Jim Valentino revealed that his aborted plans for the Guardians of the Galaxy included establishing Jonathan Raven, otherwise known as KILLRAVEN, was the son of Franklin Richards.

Now we know from the fundamental Days of Future Past storylines that Franklin was the lover of Rachel Grey.

While we know that in one variant of this timeline Franklin and Rachel would go on to conceive the nigh-unstoppable villain Jonathan Richards, otherwise known as HYPERSTORM, it would seem that Valentino intended Killraven to be conceived from another variant of this particular timeline.

It seems totally acceptable that both Hyperstorm and Killraven were alternate versions of the same character, Jonathan Richards, given their identical heights and similar hair colour.

So what does all this have to do with the subject of this particular fanfix?

Well, while there has been much speculation over the years that Shatterstar has DNA that is identical to that of Longshot who was artificially created on Mojoworld – making him either his time-displaced son via Spiral/ Rita Wayward or Dazzler – this appears to be an exaggeration, since Shatterstar does not look physically identical to his supposed father, nor do they possess similar superhuman abilities.

And none of us believe the mangled mess that he was really the transplanted consciousness of coma victim, Benjamin Russell, in the body of a Mojoverse contestant.

However, I think most of what has come before can be resolved; but firstly by way of Jim Valentino’s plans to establish Killraven as Jonathan Richards.

While Valentino never gave a thought to whom Killraven’s mother would be, given the Days of Future Past iteration of Franklin Richards it is safe to assume that she would be Rachel Grey.

Secondly, there is the fact that both were trained as gladiators to fight for the amusement of their respective masters, Killraven for his Martian overlords and Shatterstar for Mojoworld; with both going on to become freedom fighters against their respective despotic regimes.

Oh, and of course, like Hyperstorm, the similarities in their physical appearance!

However, while there might appear to be a major hurdle to this theory what with Shatterstar having DNA that is identical to that of Longshot, I don’t see that as a major problem with Spiral being involved and having the Body Shoppe at her disposal.

Given the extant of Spiral’s genetic tampering upon Psylocke (if we stick with Claremont’s original intention that she transformed Betsy into a Chinese/ Anglo-hybrid) it is easy to adduce that the mistress of the Wildways had tampered with Shatterstar’s genetic makeup to cover up his true parentage; particularly if she had stolen him from the mother.

So to fix Shatterstar’s mangled mess of a parentage, in this instance I’d reveal that Rachel returned to our timeline carrying the son of Franklin Richards.

Knowing this, Spiral lured Rachel to her “Body Shoppe”, using her magical powers to induce the pregnancy and leave no sign that she’d been “with child” in the first place.

To cover her tracks, Spiral tampers with Jonathan’s DNA to make it appear as though the child was an artificial humanoid who had originated in Mojoworld.

The purpose behind her actions?

Given the failure of Longshot’s rebellion, and her undoubtedly discovering Rachel’s arrival to our time by way of the Phoenix force, she considered an offspring of the two most powerful mutants would possess the capacity to overthrow Mojo and thus free the planet from his regime, while also exacting her revenge upon him for his enslavement of her.

But what about Benjamin Russell looking exactly like Shatterstar, you ask?

The easy explanation is that she cloned the baby with the tech in her “Body Shoppe”, transplanting this clone on Earth as a “back-up” in the event Mojo uncovered her true plan and had him killed before he reached his true potential (in much the same way Stryfe was cloned from Cable).

Postscript: Followers of this blog will know I have a much cooler theory for Killraven’s parentage but for the purposes of this fix I’ve taken a slightly different tack!