…Black Widow’s unusually youthful lifespan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how could Chris Claremont have reasoned this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 00_OHOTMU18v2_Morlocks2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 08_X12_Almagordo

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

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

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

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

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

So there’s the thread to start my fix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But where would he safely hide them from Sinister?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 11_XPRIME_OrigMutate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 15_Black Womb Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But to what end?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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