…Penance and Monet’s origin?

This week’s guest post comes from Chris Arrant, a writer and designer who co-founded Project:Rooftop with Trippe in 2006 and serves as an editor on the site.  He writes extensively about comics for Marvel Entertainment, MTV, Newsarama.com, ComicBookResources.com and iFanboy.com.  He has also entered the comics writing fray with stories in the anthologies Tori Amos’ Comic Book Tattoo, 24Seven Vol. 2, Negative Burn and No Formula: Stories From The Chemistry Set.

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When Marvel launched the series Generation X by Scott Lobdell and Chris Bachalo back in 1994, it showed a long-overdue new generation of mutants coming of age in the Marvel Universe.  Guided under the twin tutelage of longtime X-Man Banshee and longtime X-Men villain Emma Frost, it featured a completely new cast of young mutants with one memorable name – Jubilee.  But with behind-the-scenes turmoil and editorial changes in the first few years of Generation X led to non-existent or misshapen origins for each of these new characters; chief amongst those was Penance and M.

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Throwing out what later creators did with the characters both in Generation X and other subsequent series, let’s turn back the hands of time and re-imagine what could have been in terms of a convincing, conclusive and creatively deep origin for these two.

In broad strokes, M (Monet St. Croix) is the aristocratic, well-taken-care of daughter of a rich Monacan family whose mutant powers include strength, invulnerability and mild telekinetic powers.

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Penance, on the other hand is a mute, withdrawn woman shell-shocked by years of imprisonment by M’s brother Emplate.

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Her powers were ill-defined, but were generally understood to be that her body (and hair) had turned red and hardened to the density and invulnerableness of diamond. There were connections between M and Penance, but early on in Generation X it was left up to the imagination.

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In my fictional scenario here, I would have picked up on Penance’s intended origin as Yugoslavian runaway named Yvette –with a twist.  She’s the daughter of Mephisto, stolen away and hidden from him.  Don’t see the family resemblance? Look at Mephisto’s other child, Blackheart.

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Born in the former Yugoslavia, Yvette could have ended up in Monaco running from tensions building up to Bosnian war.  There in Monaco, Yvette could’ve come under the of the St. Croix family. The St. Croix would’ve at the same time been dealing with the son Marius (the future Emplate) first manifestations of his powers and his early attempts at using it for sadistic purposes.

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The St. Croix family reaches out to Mephisto to make a Faustian bargain to “correct” Marius’ evil tendencies in exchange for the future servitude of his sister, Monet.

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Yvette could be pulled into this by being forced to replace Monet by the St. Croix parents in a blood pact with; Yvette would’ve been caught in the middle of it and transported to Mephisto’s hellish realm and saved, surprisingly, by an earlier incarnation of Ghost Rider. Her powers, as it were, are bent when she gets an ill-timed dose of Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare, reacting badly with her powers and shocking her system into her familiar red form.

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She ends up in the confines of Emplate’s realm when he strikes a side bargain with Mephisto.

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For Penance, this would create a more simplistic origin that ties her into more general Marvel elements; namely, Mephisto and Ghost Rider. A storyarc later on in the Generation X series would begin to suss out layers of this, eventually leading to the full reveal that she’s Mephisto’s daughter and put a large onus on her as reformed but eternally dangerous due to her bloodline.

For both Penance and M, it would have them as metaphorical “blood” sisters; non-related people who are tied together through similar actions happening to them. Both are looking for redemption from the deeds of their parents, but each struggling with their own way to come to terms with it.

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…Ghost Rider’s origin?

Ghost Rider's origin

My biggest problem is that there were too many underlying contradictions in the Ghost Rider series, including a) WHY Zarathos, A DEMON, would LOAN his POWERS to Johnny Blaze TO BATTLE society’s EVILS, and b) why Satan would free his opponent to devour souls when this is what led to Zarathos acquiring the power to challenge him in the first place?

My own solution to these questions seemed to be to come up with a counter-mythology that would allow people to be saved from Hell, since I think readers had seen enough of people making deals with the devil and being taken to Hell.

The thinking behind this proposal therefore suggests that there are forces that are dedicated to the undoing of what Satan does… a force for release and redemption which will be the equal of Satan, with foot soldiers that have the power to prevent the damned from becoming food for the soldiers of Hell.

So, in the beginning, well before the Great Cataclysm which sank Atlantis, we have the Earth ruled by the race of Elder Gods known as the N’Garai.

Humanity is enslaved by these gods, serving as their workers, pets and meals. They are eventually defeated and driven from the Earth by the Asura, the Assassins of Heaven led by the not-yet-fallen angel, Lucifer, and humanity gains its freedom.

However, Lucifer absorbs so much of their energies that he is transformed into Satan, along with his heavenly army, the Asura, who all become demons. While stories since have suggested something else entirely, the N’Garai sought vengeance upon the fallen angel Lucifer by specifically plotting to slay his daughter, Satana.

Nevertheless, returning to Heaven, the degenerated Lucifer leads the Asura in war against God, resulting in the Assassins of Heaven being cast down from the Earth, Zarathos, one of Lucifer’s lieutenants, among them, condemned to take possession of human hosts in order to be active.

Zarathos comes to be worshipped in Pyrrophlagalon, the “City of Burning Souls”, in the Nightmare Empire of Acheron. During this time, Centurious, a prince of Acheron, falls in love with a Priestess of the Cult of Zarathos, Lilith (of Midnight Sons fame). But Lilith confesses her love to the demon Zarathos, and she knows within her heart of hearts the feeling is mutual.

Jealous, Centurious scales the Mount of Avarice, performing a dark occult ritual to summon Satan so he can bargain for Lilith’s love. Needless to say, Satan takes his soul for the chance to love the princess.

Centurious, however, cannot love Lilith, as a man with no soul has no emotions, so when he attempts to seduce her, she rejects his advances. In his rage Centurious rapes Lilith (finally explaining why, in Spirits of Vengeance #15, Lilith gasps in surprise upon seeing Centurious unmasked for the first time since she recognises him as the one who assaulted her).

Lilith gives birth nine months later to the first human child born without a soul – a sign of the end times – and consequently becomes the Mother of Demons, a living gateway through which the N’Garai can return to Earth.

But another, more sinister, level to the birth of this child exists: it will serve as the physical body for the indwelling of Satan. The child has no soul of its own to be “possessed” by Satan, which will allow it to be used in a more complete and powerful manner than in a typical “possession”.

Zarathos, meanwhile, is wishing to UNDO the curse of the N’Garai that made him a demon and return to the state that exists outside the cosmos. But unable to walk the Earth in his true form whilst the repercussion of his own rebellion still remains in the mortal plane, he strikes a deal. He is permitted to impose his soul upon descendants of Centurious’s line in an effort to prevent the apocalypse… and hence have them act as his avatars, so that he may act through them to set right the evil he spawned.

It has been known that Centurious’s ties with the Ghost Rider point to something more… what that something is can finally be revealed. That is, Johnny Blaise’s line is descended from Centurious. This is why Centurious, once he is demasked in the Road to Vengeance crossover, seems so familiar to Dan Ketch’s Ghost Rider. This also explains that it is from Centurious’s lineage that Johnny inherits his aptitude for performing powerful sorcery. Together Blaise and Zarathos become the Ghost Rider, purifying and purging souls of their negative elements in order to save them from falling into the clutches of Satan.

How? Well, despite it previously being stated that the Ghost Rider was collecting souls for Satan, in this new series he comes to discover that he is ‘collecting’ the souls of evildoers, and can make use of their abilities and life forces to increase his strength, agility, reduce his vulnerability, and so on.

But these abilities, he discovers, have to be willingly surrendered by his ‘inmates’ but it’s in their best interest to do so, since in addition, Ghost Rider is sort of a living purgatory. If they help out by giving their life energies up to him, then they get time taken off of their imprisonment. Eventually, if they survive, they can pass on to a better afterlife. Hence, he becomes a truly unique character, in that he is a living redemption engine.

As for the mystery of the Fallen, it is known that they were originally members of the Blood who fought against Zarathos in the distant past. However, those members who would become known as the Fallen discovered the true purpose of the Blood: to guard the true (and continuing) bloodline of Centurious, thus ensuring Satan has a vessel to occupy for the grand finale of human history. Turning their back on their original mission, the Fallen choose instead to assist in ensuring the crusade of Zarathos has a chance of success.

Postscript

As for the whole conundrum that arose from the second Ghost Rider introduced in the early nineties, well I believe the answer’s RIGHT THERE… and yet “no one sees it, but how in the hell can they MISS it?”

It begins like this. Leader of the Hidden, Regent, was yet another guise worn by Satan in an effort to convince Roxanne Simpson into surrendering to him any children she might have to Johnny if he promised to cure Blaze of the curse of Zarathos. Desperate to save Johnny, Roxanne agrees.

Years after Roxanne gives birth to Emma & Craig, Regent comes for the children, transporting them back in time to be raised by Jack Ketch, member of the Hidden, and his wife Francis. The children are renamed Barbara and Daniel.

As for villains to pit the Ghost Rider against this time around, I have a few thoughts:

Zodiak could have been a decent villain, but I would slightly reimagine him in the following way…

During the 1970’s, the fallen angel, Lucifer, was revealed to not only have lead the angels to drive the N’Garai from the Earth, but to have lead the war against Heaven that resulted in twelve angels being cast down from the Earth.

Zodiak thus sets about increasing his power a thousand-fold through imprisoning these twelve demons within his body. He pits himself against Zarathos after having absorbed the first few, and Ghost Rider must prevent him from succeeding with all twelve, particularly the daddy-of-them-all, Satan himself.

This could be the thrust for a new series.