…Logan’s parentage?

Followers of this blog may recall its first big success back in January 2013 when it recruited as a guest contributor comics’ royalty, Paty Cockrum, member of Marvel’s bullpen and wife of the late legendary creator of the All-New, All-Different X-Men Dave Cockrum.  This time around the proverb “good things come to those who wait” has finally come true for this blog, with Nate recently having the ridiculous good fortune to speak exclusively with the Godfather of The X-Men, Chris Claremont, over many elements of his original, seventeen year run . The following essay represents his thoughts on yet another of his dropped stitches, the true parentage of Logan, the mutant known as Wolverine.

I wouldn’t want to in this particular instance.  That is, as long-time readers of this blog will know, I am a Claremont-purist.  So for the remainder of this blog post I will attempt to highlight how Chris’s explanation for who he intended Logan’s parents to be, more specifically his biological mother, was RIGHT THERE during his original run… and yet no X-fan saw it, but how in the hell did they MISS it?

In Chris’s conception, Wolverine is, in many respects, the anodyne of what Charles Xavier preaches to the student X-Men.

He is not a natural-born man of honour, he is not a non-violent person.  He is significantly older than all of the other X-Men, he has a life experience that is unlike any of theirs, and in terms of his inherent character, he is fundamentally, and continually, in conflict with himself.

Chris Claremont’s evolution of who and what Wolverine is, and where he came from, is substantially different from what evolved into traditional Marvel origin tropes. To Chris, he is a man in conflict with himself by virtue of the fact that half of his persona, and his physical abilities, are derived from his father, i.e. Sabretooth, and half is defined from his mother who in his conception was the fallen angel, Seraph, who ran the Princess Bar in Madripoor.

From that you have the reason why he is significantly height-challenged compared to Sabretooth…

…but also why, in Chris’s presentation of the character, every year on his birthday Sabretooth shows up and basically kills him… since from Sabretooth’s perception, this is a rite of passage.

Figure 03_WLV10p19

He’s totally aware of the reality, i.e. Logan has a healing factor that is as ruthlessly efficient as Sabretooth’s own.  So when one says Sabretooth kills him, he gets better and Sabretooth knows this.  But from his perception,

“If you’re my son, then the only way you get to be ‘top dog’ in the ‘pack’ is by getting rid of ‘the top dog in the pack,’ which is me.  And until you can do that, I’m not going to give you any respect…especially if you refuse to do that.”

And it’s even from Sabretooth’s perception Logan is even more of a blot on the family escutcheon because, not simply because of his height and his flawed attitude, i.e. a sense of morality, but also because he’s a cyborg thanks to the Weapon X foolishness.  He has adamantium-laced bones, he has the adamantium claws, so as far as Sabretooth’s concerned, Logan is broken goods.

From Logan’s perspective, he is torn between the half of his persona that is derived solely from his father, which is he’s a kick-arse hellraiser, i.e. if you look at any room he lives in, half of it is a total shithole and the other half derived from his perception of fulfilling his mother’s aspect of his persona, i.e. in him it’s epitomised by the essence of Japanese/ samurai culture, is almost a perfect symmetry of form and substance.  It is simple, it is unique, it is clean, it is essential…

…and that’s the battle that is always going on with him.  There is a part of him that always wants to be the passionate, but honourable, mate of Mariko Yashida, but the other half of him is even more passionately bound to Phoenix, or more importantly Dark Phoenix.  He wants to tear the Omniverse to shreds because that’s the way to win his lady’s heart…

…and he is constantly in conflict… and it drives him absolutely fucking crazy… which is about as brilliant a presentation for a character in a melodramatic setting like the X-Men as one could get.

So everything, for Chris at least, defining about Wolverine is the two aspects of his life are his past, in terms of the details of his past, who he is and where he came from, he doesn’t care, from Chris’s way of thinking, he has no interest in his origins, he knows his origins.  As far as where the claws came from, the fact that he doesn’t know doesn’t bother him, they’re here… he will deal with it. He isn’t interested in getting revenge, unless of course the person who did it is doing it to other people… if a person indeed did it.  His focus is on the present and what is yet to be, getting in this instance the X-Men and by extension the New Mutants and all the students associated with Xavier at the school ready for whatever will come at them down the pike.  But aside from that, he is not that concerned.  Part of that is solipsism on Chris’s part; basically he did not trust himself to come up with an origin that was so unbelievable… and unique… and absolutely kick-arse… that he wanted to risk it.  And the other half of Chris was even if he did come up with that, in ten years it would be stale and someone would want to change it.

Chris’s pitched Dark Wolverine Saga, where he would have the Hand turning Logan into their assassin, was a feint.  That is, Chris intended to reveal that the Hand were not interested in Logan except as a lure to reel in Jean, knowing that if he was needing rescuing she would be the one who would come after him…

…and then they would have Dark Phoenix and finally cut her lose.

But the kicker… this was the Shadow King’s plan.

That is, he was responsible for shaking up the Club and coordinating a more ruthless Inner Circle, Matsu’o his agent to use the Hand to put this plan into play.

As for Kitty, she is the next best thing to Logan’s daughter, she came in part to be because of him and was intended by him to become the inheritor of everything scary about Wolverine…

…including his immortality… the consequences of which would come down the line (the background to this being that the Shadow King came to learn her connection in Madripoor and this was behind him fading, not into the background, but cross-time where he manipulated others to his “cause” with the intention of using them to corrupt her – his big clue to us re: this was Sat-Yr-9, in guise of our Courtney…

…joining the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle).

The above all leads to a number of questions, including:

1. If Logan besmirched the “family escutcheon”, this mean his father(Sabretooth)’s side of the family had a coat-of-arms which suggests they are of noble lineage, and not too far back if Sabretooth is directly aware of this… and a family that believed morality to be a weakness/ flawed attitude.  So just where does this family come from?

Baron Strucker came from a line of Prussian noblemen.  He led the Death’s Head Squadron, first mentioned in Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos #5, but not SEEN UNTIL, yes, Chris’s Uncanny X-Men #268.  Although an S.S. division, they operated independently from the Reich, following only Baron Strucker’s orders, and were the ones shown in pursuit of young Natalia Romanova.  In that particular issue they were killed by Seraph, Madripoor’s self-appointed guardian.  The Death’s Head originated with pirates, e.g. the Jolly Roger, but there was also a Prussian version which had the crossbones behind the skull. Wolfgang came from a long line of Struckers who were all military leaders cut from the same cloth…

…a family that believed morality a weakness/ flawed attitude. So did Logan besmirch the Strucker escutcheon? Seraph went out of her way to shoot the Death’s Head Squadron. Hmm, interesting…

2. If Seraph was a “fallen angel” (and Chris insists this wasn’t a metaphor), what led to her fall?

How interesting is it that her son is destined to partner with the corrupted Phoenix, when the Second Book of Enoch denotes the Seraphim as the Phoenix, “flying elements of the Sun”.

3. There’s also the question of how Seraph came to meet Sabretooth?

Marvel Comics Presents #2 revealed the woman on David Chapel’s pendant, which he gave to Wolverine in the Australian desert, as the woman for whom the Princess Bar was named (at the time it seemed to be Jessan Hoan but at this point she had not long migrated there – given the later revelation in Wolverine #126, it was obviously Seraph).

Before she built the Princess Bar, Seraph met Sabes in Canada, had some fun, even worked together for a time as circuits clicked and emotions heated up between them. One thing led to another and they had a child (i.e. Logan). Early on he had been a proper rotter – think the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas…

… – leading to major conflict between the two of them.  Seraph hit the road to put some necessary distance between herself and Sabes while she figured out where to go from there.  To his surprise as much as hers, Sabes felt a connection with Logan so remained back to continue raising Logan.  Seraph went on to settle in Madripoor, it turning out to be the sole place in Earth where she felt safe (which of course makes one wonder what-who she might be afraid of).

4. Had a Princess ruled Madripoor before Prince Baran…

…and Seraph built the Bar on her behalf? Or did Seraph institute herself as reigning princess of the island of thieves?

This might explain why Viper felt it important to institute herself in that position.  That is, by marrying the son of Seraph…

…she believed she had inherited the title.

That means Logan is entitled to the position of Prince of Madripoor, and Sabretooth perhaps King of Madripoor.

If Wolverine wants the title of King, he will have to kill Sabretooth;)

5. What or who might Seraph be afraid of?

Well if she had been an Angel, but had lost her celestial attributes, does this mean she had been a member of Lucifer’s host who all “fell” after banishing the N’Garai from Earth (cf. Marvel Preview #7)?  Given the Camarilla of the N’Garai wished to punish Satana as revenge on her father, the seraph, Lucifer, for his role in their banishment from Earth…

…did the demons similarly have their agents after Seraph? I can see it now while she is working in the Kluane, the N’Garai curse that was the Wendigo in pursuit of her, leading to a showdown between the creature and Sabretooth.

Or did she seek Sabretooth out because she heard of his power and perhaps thought by having a child with him she could raise a champion to defeat the N’Garai?

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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).