…the Darkforce’s origin?

darkforce dimens

While there are slight yet inconclusive hints that the Darkforce may be a corruptive influence of some kind, I think Blackheart’s demonstrated ability to use its power without limits is the hint we’ve been waiting for to explaining its true origins.

Recall that Blackheart has further demonstrated the power to control millions of minds at once while in Hell, and can steal souls without one’s approval, unlike his father, Mephisto (who, of all his powers, doesn’t appear to manipulate the Darkforce). Blackheart is also at his most omnipotent and omnipresent when he is in the Darkforce Dimension.

So why does Blackheart constantly need to control the millions of minds in Hell, etc. if he can instead use the Darkforce energy to fuel his power? I’d suggest that because the two are intimately interwoven, perhaps even being one-and-the-same!

That is, given the previous hints that it may be a corruptive influence of some kind (at least to Cloak, possibly Darkhawk as well), I’d fix the disparate stories behind the Darkforce by revealing it as the manifestation of tortured souls of Hell – it being the flipside of the cosmic light of the Quantum Bands, revealing pain and guilt and sorrow which it did for those victims of Cloak and the member of Psionex, Asylum.

A little known fact that might help reinforce this is how Dormammu once used the Darkforce to reconstitute himself and enter our dimension in Dr. Strange Sorcerer Supreme #1.

You know, that Guy Tantalus from the obscure Blackwulf series could easily be the Big Bad for a cosmic event centred round the Darkforce… his Black Legacy powers seemed to be a part of the Darkforce… which is further interesting when his powers were bestowed upon him by the “BLACK” Celestial. Perhaps there’s some connection to Spider-Man’s black costume too, i.e. the Venom symbiote.

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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).