the origin of Marvel’s Limbo?

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

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

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

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

Alice in Wonderland battling the demonic Jabberwocky

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

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

evidence of Matt Murdock's faith from Daredevil #282

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

So who else?

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

Fantastic Four Annual 3 Church Wedding

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

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

The answer I’d suggest is two-fold.

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

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

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

Susan being tortured by Mephisto from Fantastic Four #277

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

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

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

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

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

Still…

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

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

Sue's miscarriage from Fantastic Four #267

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

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

Sue praying from Fantastic Four #43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-script:

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

Watcher acknowledging his base in Limbo from Strange Tales 134

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has the Celestial Madonna been Susan Richards all along?

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

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

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

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

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

Then who else could she be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have we perhaps seen this “child” before?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immortus, proclaiming himself lord of Limbo in Avengers 131

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

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

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

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

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

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

The planet Phantus from Thor 281

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and see Earth from Limbo…

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

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

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

…the Molecule Man and the Beyonder?

beyonder-and-molecule-man-turn-into-a-cosmic-cube

Today’s post is fnord12’s, of the Marvel Comics Chronology project.  This time around, he has decided to unpick the fixes for the Beyonder’s origin, and the character’s connection to the Molecule Man, thereby weaving a logical rat’s nest into a wearable garment.  So over to fnord12.

Ok, ok, put the pitchforks down.  I know no one wants to hear any more about the Beyonder ever again.  I know we all hated Secret Wars II, and that’s fair enough.  I’m right there with you.  But, you have to admit the ending of Secret Wars II was pretty good.  The Beyonder, we had learned, was once a universe unto himself.  After he spent the series thrashing about in our universe in various ill-advised ways, the Beyonder decided to return to the void of his previous existence.  He would forego his consciousness and become a new universe – perhaps even a New Universe.  And that’s pretty cool.  Whether you see Secret Wars II as a metaphor for Jim Shooter thrashing about and disrupting the status quo in the Marvel offices, or just a cosmic storyline full of admittedly goofy moments, the ending has a nice sense of closure.  It’s a shame it got ruined when the Beyonder was brought back and “fixed” in a really weird way – actually, in two really weird ways.  And that’s what I’m hoping to get at with this piece: a way to unfix the fixes with my own fix.

But before we get to that, a more esoteric and personal bugaboo of mine:  the handling of Molecule Man in the 1970s.  Molecule Man first appeared in Fantastic Four #20 as a nerdy dweeb who suddenly had vast power and was immediately corrupted by it.  This triggered the Watcher to break his personal vow to never interfere (we know it doesn’t take much) and alert the Fantastic Four.  Then, the Watcher spirits him away in the end.  That was Molecule Man’s only Silver Age appearance.

Then, in the 1970s, things got weird.  Steve Gerber brought the character back in the first issue of Marvel Two-In-One, but it wasn’t really him.  It was Molecule Man’s son, which he somehow produced in the isolated dimension where the Watcher had trapped him.   When his “son” comes back to Earth, he’s a much more generic villain in terms of personality.  He loses his body and instead possesses whoever holds his wand.  The resurrection as his son was also supposed to eliminate his inability to affect organic molecules.  But, that starts creeping back in later stories, beginning with an inability to affect unstable molecules.  Along the way, he also seems to become his original self again, dropping the idea that he was actually Molecule Man’s son.

Then, in the early 80s, Jim Shooter brought back Molecule Man as the original Silver Age version.  Molecule Man re-grew a body for himself, ditched the wand, and went back to his old nebbish self that we all know and love from the first Secret Wars.   (I don’t care what anyone says.  The first Secret Wars was a fun story, and Molecule Man’s interaction with the Beyonder was one of the best parts of the second series.)   Molecule Man even regained his inability to affect organic materials.  The Shooter story in Avengers #215-216 gave a quick hand-waving explanation about the wand possessions, but offered no explanation for the son thing or the reversal of his power limitation.  That always bugged me.  The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe says something about the son being a construct he created to serve as a companion, but I never liked that.  Molecule Man was never shown to be able to create something with a consciousness.  It seems like a step too far even for his godlike powers.

Now, back to the Beyonder.  Apparently, Ralph Macchio disliked the Beyonder so much that even though the character was done/finished/caput/off being another universe where he would never bother us again, he ordered Steve Englehart to bring him back just so he could do away with him again.  Fantastic Four #318-319 showed the Beyonder merging with Molecule Man so they could become a cosmic cube.  Just typing that makes my brain hurt.   Of course, this “fix” actually had the opposite of Macchio’s intended result.  Molecule Man eventually disentangled himself from the Beyonder, or Kosmos or whatever we have to call it, and went back to his usual routine.  Now, instead of having a nice finite ending, the Beyonder is free to menace the Marvel universe (and us!) without notice, as s/he did in the 2003 Thanos series.

Then, we have the second, most recent, “fix” from the New Avengers Illuminati series by Brian Michael Bendis.  The nearly incomprehensible third issue suggested the Beyonder was a mutant Inhuman all along.  It also implied that all of Secret Wars II was just an illusion played out on an unpopulated moon out in space.  It seems unlikely, considering the number of actual developments that came out of Secret Wars II, like the first appearance of Boom Boom and the curing of Rick Jones’ cancer.  How could it in any way jibe with the Kosmos story?  Bendis has said that he kept the story deliberately vague, so that we could interpret it however we want.  I am now exercising my option to do that in a way that a) preserves the original ending of Secret Wars II while b) compartmentalizing the two Beyonder “fixes” so that we can blissfully ignore them both at once, and c) addressing my personal problem with the long forgotten weirdness of the 1970s Molecule Man.  So, here we go!

What if there was a mutant Inhuman?  Let’s call him Kosmogar Beyondagon.  (That’s a Blackagar Boltagon reference, people!  Look it up!)  Kosmogar, although incredibly powerful thanks to the mind-blowing awesomeness of his mutant Inhumanism, might lack and covet a corporeal form of his own.  He would sense Molecule Man and secretly break into the dimensional prison where the Watcher was keeping him.  He would possess the lifeless construct of a “son” that Molecule Man created and then start manipulating the guy.  Eventually, Kosmogar would use their combined powers to escape, but trap Molecule Man in the wand.

Throughout the 1970s, then, we really saw Kosmogar.  That’s why he possesses various bodies, and why his powers are inconsistent.  Eventually, though, Molecule Man subconsciously asserts himself enough to expel Kosmogar.  From Shooter’s Avengers through the two Secret Wars series, we have the “regular” Molecule Man again.  But, we do see Kosmogar separately at this time, taunting the Illuminati and priming them to think the worst of the Beyonder.  Kosmogar plans to swoop in and steal the Beyonder’s power at the right moment, something he fails to do behind the scenes in the final issue of Secret Wars II.

We could tell a whole behind-the-scenes story from Kosmogar’s point of view where we get to relive a fairly chaotic battle devoid of character moments in that issue.  This story could deliver bonus fixes, like explaining why Cyclops didn’t recognize Rachel Summers using the Phoenix Force at a time when he didn’t know she was his alternate future daughter.  It could explain some of the minor errors in character appearances, like the roster of Alpha Flight that appears in that issue, while also telling the story of how Kosmogar failed to steal the Beyonder’s power.  We can also use the bodiless Kosmogar during the early 1980s period for other fixes as well, like explaining The Thing #3 where Lockjaw talked.   The other Inhumans seemed convinced he was a real person and not a dog, but Peter David’s reversal of that had some inherent contradictions.  Kosmogar wouldn’t want to risk the emergence of another mutant Inhuman, so he possesses Lockjaw long enough to make him talk and discourage Quicksilver from exposing Luna to the Terrigen Mists, and then puts it into the Inhumans’ heads that it was all just a practical joke.

After Secret Wars II is over, Kosmogar starts manipulating Kubik and the other cosmic entities.  He gets them to think he is the Beyonder and force him to merge with Molecule Man again – which is what he actually wants.  When Molecule Man disentangles himself, Kosmogar goes on to appear in the short-lived Thanos series, where he’s put into a coma (Thanos #10).

This fix keeps the real Beyonder safely away from all of the post-Secret Wars II nonsense, allowing him to have retired in peace never to be used again.  Plus, it provides an explanation for the changes to the Molecule Man.  If we were doing all of this in some actual comics, we could frame it around a Secret Wars III.  Don’t groan!  We could have all of our various sentient cosmic cubes – Kubik, the Shaper of Worlds, and, yes, the Kosmos/Beyonder – each pitting a faction of heroes and/or villains against each other for the purposes of some cosmic contest set up by the Grandmaster.  Keeping it not too complex leaves room to work in all our changes.  It starts to come out during the course of the story that the head of the third faction isn’t really the Beyonder.  He is really Kosmos, or rather our Kosmogar.

What does Kosmogar want?  What was all that possession of the Molecule Man and his various machinations for?  Well, that’s what Secret Wars III can be about, interspersed with some classic Secret Wars-style slugfests.    We can flash back to his birth and childhood and exposure to the Terrigen Mists, seeing how he first gained his powers but also lost his corporeal form.  For all his vast power, he’s been unable to create permanent body for himself.  The “son” created by the Molecule Man got burned out by his energies, and he had to release all the other forms he possessed or they would have burnt out too.  In order to form a permanent body, he needs truly cosmic power.  The real Beyonder could have created one for him, but Kosmogar failed in that attempt.  Now he needs to win the Grandmaster’s contest.  But, why does he want a body?  Again we go back to his childhood to find a very simple and human reason:  a boy that could never receive a hug from his parents, a kiss from his girlfriend, or even pet his Lockjaw puppy.  Over the years in his quest for power his mind has become more twisted, and he’s forgotten the reason for his quest.  But with this, we can resolve the character arc for Kosmogar without him ever succeeding in gaining a body, as our heroes delve into his psyche and learn that, deep inside, he’s just a little boy that needed a hug.

…Bruce Banner’s multiple personalities?

This Fix comes from long time Hulk fan, Deadfast Author and BAD HAVEN founder Mark ‘The Bad Man’ McCann.

0_ The Avengers new tv-spot with tons of hulk

Monstrous Origins

Since his inception The Incredible Hulk has been held up as an analogy for many things; the 60’s counter culture urge to rise up against repression – a reaction to the frustrations of war and the fear of nuclear side effects/ mutations and even a study on anger and justified violence. Stan Lee called the character ‘a golem’ in line with Jewish myth, and recalled Hulk as the Atomic Age Jekyll and Hyde.

But with so many dissonant personalities emerging over the years of his publication history it’s difficult to give a cohesive history of what exactly ‘Hulk’ really is when compared to his character history as an off-shoot of a gamma bomb experiment gone wrong and the fractured psyche of genius nuclear physicist Bruce Banner.

Figure 1: The different incarnations of Hulk from left - Gladiator Hulk, The Meastro, Gamma Irradiated Spider-Man, Joe Fixit, The Professor, House of M Hulk, The Green Scar

Figure 1: The different incarnations of Hulk from left – Gladiator Hulk, The Meastro, Gamma Irradiated Spider-Man, Joe Fixit, The Professor, House of M Hulk, The Green Scar

What we can agree on, is that from his initial appearance, although retconned and retconned again, Hulk emerged from the Gamma Bomb explosion of Banner’s own design a grey behemoth who would revert to Banner by sunrise, and Hulk again at sunset. This Hulk was different to the more commonly known version; a rampaging, monosyllabic, childlike engine of destruction.

And although the actual reasoning behind this change would be more one of simple editorial practicality (The grey colouring during his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #1 proved problematic; ‘resulting in different shades of gray, and even green, in the issue’), the effects of the later change to ‘Green’ for the character and ‘childlike’ to the personality would be the catalyst for a long list of personality changes that would result in one of the most seemingly schizophrenic characters in comics.

Figure 2: During the Hulk's first ever appearance he was coloured Grey

Figure 2: During the Hulk’s first ever appearance he was coloured Grey

Breaking Banner

The reasoning behind the many sides of Hulk was elaborated on by writer Bill Mantlo who took the reins of the Hulk series with issue #245 (1980), when the writer alluded to Bruce Banner’s child abuse at the hands of his violent father, who would be shown in later issues to go one step further in traumatizing his son, by murdering Bruce’s mother.

The many faces of Hulk are hypothesized as a side effect of this abuse, which would later under the writing tenure of Peter David (during his 12 year run from issue #331 – 1987) be diagnosed as Multiple Personality Disorder, or Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Dissociative disorders including DID have been attributed to disruptions in memory caused by trauma and other forms of stress, but research on this hypothesis has been characterized by poor methodology and in some cases doesn’t add up. But it would make perfect sense that Banner, especially from his early appearance as a troubled Nuclear physicist working on a Gamma Bomb under the watchful, and somewhat aggressive eye of General Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross would create a side personality, an aggressive alpha male personality composed of Banner’s smarts, and a cunning of his own, internally to combat his own insecurities.  Banner was in a difficult situation, with feelings for the General’s daughter Betty and overshadowed by two existing powerful male figures in her life – Ross and Major Glenn Talbot, Betty’s husband to be.

Figure 3: The grey hulk Joe Fixit was actually an early persona Banner had created as part of his DID

Figure 3: The grey hulk Joe Fixit was actually an early persona Banner had created as part of his DID

This personality Banner created – the Grey Hulk – who would later seemingly devolve into a rampaging green behemoth was the same ‘Joe Fixit’ Hulk from later issues (Incredible Hulk #324 onwards)  and I contend a product of Banner’s secret rage, inadequacy (Major Glenn Talbot was about engaged to the woman he loved, Betty Ross, General Ross’ daughter, and both Ross and Talbot were ‘real men’ and treated Banner with scorn) and lust (for Betty Ross).  Described as; cunning, crafty, hedonistic, arrogant, and distant, this Hulk persona, still in his inception was later suppressed by Banner using the gamma ray machine he creates to return his intelligence to Hulk’s body.

This alters Hulk’s colour to green and makes Banner weakly and sick when he reverts from his monstrous transformations. Overuse of this machine, which could be categorized as continual stress on Banners part, would later induce the better known Savage Hulk persona, the hulking monosyllabic beast he is best known for, and has been a continuous presence throughout Hulk’s publication history.

Figure 4: the savage hulk smashes

Figure 4: The Savage Hulk Smashes

But this persona, while best categorized by his catch-phrase ‘Hulk Smash’, was hunted by the US Army and served as an Avengers antagonist, yet more often than not expressed an interest in being left alone. The reasons for this I contend, are that while Banner may have been suffering from DID, his strongest human instincts, the ones wired for survival, are what causes the manifestation of this particular Hulk. And the reason that no matter how many times Hulk’s personalities change or evolve; when under extreme stress or experiencing traumatic external events, it seems the Savage Hulk emerges prevalent as the one aspect of Bruce Banner’s persona that he cannot keep suppressed; his innate human survival instinct.

This has been the case when Banner existed as The Grey Hulk, and later the Merged Hulk or Professor Hulks (an amalgamation of all 3 of his dissociative personalities, including Banner). Through his transformations Banner’s personalities found a way to emerge, but I contend that his transformation itself, is something that happens purely on an instinctual level, something that Banner has harnessed to varying degrees, but has never been fully able to control. This also helps explain why on the temporary occasions that Banner has managed to separate himself from Hulk it has nearly killed him and/or driven him temporarily mad.

Figure 5: Hulk and Banner separated has proved detrimental to both as individual entities

Figure 5: Hulk and Banner separated has proved detrimental to both as individual entities

This was also the case with his Hulk alter ego, when during one of these instances (manipulated by the ethereal villain Nightmare) Hulk emerged minus Banner as ‘Mindless Hulk’, an incarnation of Hulk, that without Banner to hold him in check, ran rampant and was completely impossible to control. Could it not be possible that ‘Mindless Hulk’ was simply Banner’s survival mechanism running rampant and without an anchor to hold it in check, thrashing out wildly in an attempt to relocate its host? This was similarly the case when Doc Samson separated Banner from Hulk and created an even less cognitive version of Hulk, who due to the separation from Banner eventually began to die, until reunited.

Figure 6: The mindless Hulk was virtually  impossible minus Banner

Figure 6: The mindless Hulk was virtually impossible minus Banner

It’s also seems to be obvious that without Banner as his anchor Hulk continues to run unchecked and further towards a form of critical mass. When separated during the Onslaught Saga, this time round Hulk’s strength grew exponentially greater, and he also began to leak radiation until he was restored with his Banner ‘anchor’. The suggestion is, that this time round as opposed to just dying from the separation, he might have actually exploded.

Human Instinct

But returning to the idea of Banners ‘Hulk’ transformations as an ‘Instinctual Reaction’ to gamma mutation, and the personalities as a side effect of this new form of expression, we should note that the instincts, best described as inborn complex patterns of behaviour that must exist in every member of the species and that cannot be overcome by force of will, are not just a reflex reaction to Banner’s external stress stimulus.

The absence of volitional capacity must not be confused with an inability to modify fixed action patterns as it seems Banner as a child was able to alter his natural instinct towards survival and anger, a possible inborn genetic trait passed on from his violent and abusive father, suppressing it enough that he would later develop great internal, unreleased rage and the manifestation of DID.

The Savage Hulk, most often compared to Bruce’s inner child, could thus be best described as Bruce’s survival instincts finally given release, in the form of a rampaging beast, fused with the child he was when he first learned how to suppress them.

Further questions might arise however, when we consider that Banner’s psyche has massive numbers of personalities seemingly suppressed within. Guilt Hulk, Devil Hulk, Dark Hulk, Shrapnel Hulk, The Maestro and many more are all persona’s that have been witnessed within Banner, and only some of whom have ever found an outlet.

Figure 7: Bruce Banner's repressed personalities were once glimpsed in a cave in his psyche

Figure 7: Bruce Banner’s repressed personalities were once glimpsed in a cave in his psyche

The reason only some have emerged may be down to the strength of those said persona’s abilities to override or learn beyond Banner’s initial ‘survival instinct’ transformation. And while the personas have been combined, have run loose, or in the case of the Dark Hulk, a seemingly hostile extra-dimensional possession, mixed with Banner’s own dark feelings, (and a possible forerunner to the Maestro persona) exiled using magic and psychic tactics (via Doctor Strange and Namor) the manifestation of Banner’s survival has always been a reversion to the childlike ‘Savage Hulk’; the suppressed survival instinct of Bruce Banner as a child, given voice through the child he locked away, and with an abnormal cellular structure inherited from his father’s exposure to radiation which enabled his unique physiology to harness the gamma radiation from his own bomb rather than be annihilated by it.

Figure 8: Hulk's transformation

Figure 8: Hulk transformation

No matter how much Banner’s DID personalities work around it (Joe Fixit, Maestro, Green Scar, The Professor etc.) the reason they will never retain the same dominance as ‘Savage Hulk’ is that without Savage Hulk, the ultimate expression of ‘fight’ instead of flight and survival through adaptation (advanced strength, Healing and Durability) Banner would return to a level of vulnerability his body has since rejected, and die. Thus Banners survival is ironically linked to a transformation that gives his instinct form, paired with the personality he suppressed that is least equipped to survive. An abused Bruce Banner as a boy.

Post Analysis:

Figure 9: Among Hulks already impressive ability to channel anger into almost limitless strength, he can also heal from any wound, is almost impervious to damage and has shown the ability to adapt to breathing underwater and survival in the complete vacuum of space. For all intents and purposes he is a evolutionary hyper-Adaptoid

Figure 9: Among Hulks already impressive ability to channel anger into almost limitless strength, he can also heal from any wound, is almost impervious to damage and has shown the ability to adapt to breathing underwater and survival in the complete vacuum of space. For all intents and purposes he is a evolutionary hyper-adaptoid

Hulk’s continued mantra ‘Hulk Is The Strongest One There Is’ also gives credence to the idea that Hulk is not only Banner’s survival mechanism in action, but by his sheer survival and subsequent mutation, a form of Darwinian evolution given unnatural possibility through science. Hulk is ‘the strongest one there is’ not only as a physical entity, but in his continued evolution and adaptability as the purest sense of ‘survival of the fittest’ given form. The fact that human survival hinges on our ability to out-think our surrounding dangers further builds on the idea that while Hulk is a creature of pure survival given physicality, it is the very human instinct, and subsequent psychological variance that empowers him.

…Shatterstar’s origin?

Spiral Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The purpose behind her actions?

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

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

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

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