…The Dane Curse?

Figure 00

When Polaris was introduced it was revealed that she was Magneto’s daughter, firstly by Mesmero in X-Men #50…

Figure 01

…and then by the master of magnetism himself in X-Men #51.

Figure 02

In X-Men #52 Iceman suggests that both villains had lied and that Lorna’s parents had actually died and she had been adopted by her father’s sister and brother-in-law…

Figure 03

… further supported by the revelation in X-Men #58 that the Magneto who partnered with Mesmero and claimed to be her father had actually been a robot.

Figure 04

Figure 05

And that was pretty much the state of affairs for the next thirty plus years, until a convoluted series of stories in recent years which have stupidly revealed Lorna’s mother apparently having had an affair with the self-styled master of magnetism, making her Magneto’s daughter after all.

But that’s not the end of the matter.

In Astonishing Tales #3, we were introduced to a character named Zaladane who was a priestess of the sun god, Garokk, and a member of his tribe of Savage Land followers.

Figure 06

After floating around in the background for over a decade, playing a small role as Garokk’s high priestess, Chris Claremont brought her forward into the spotlight, initially in Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 where the High Evolutionary introduced her to Havok as his assistant Zala…

Figure 07a

…during his plot to restore the then barren Savage Land to its former state during the Evolutionary War.

Figure 07b

She came face to face with the X-Man Havok during this time, who found her strangely familiar looking.

Figure 07c

Zaladane remained out of most of the action fighting in this Annual, content with the power that had become hers as the High Evolutionary’s second-in-command.  However it was at this point she began her association with the Savage Land Mutates.

Figure 07d

Claremont then follows this story up with a two-part storyline in Uncanny X-Men #249-250 (“The Dane Curse”) with Zaladane as the main villain, having Lorna Dane captured…

Figure 08a

…and brought to the Savage Land…

Figure 08b

…where her real name is not only revealed as Zala Dane…

Figure 08c

…but she addresses Lorna as her long-lost sister whom she has “searched the world for”.

Figure 08d

In the following issue she uses the High Evolutionary’s Transmutator, a machine capable of transferring superpowers from one individual to a genetically compatible match, to steal Lorna’s magnetic powers and graft them onto herself.

It is also here that Havok can’t help but notice a family resemblance between the two.

Figure 09b

But Polaris obviously had no clue about Zaladane being her sister since she showed as much surprise as readers at the suggestion.

Figure 09c

However, a few issues later, in Uncanny X-Men #254, Lorna makes it to Muir Island where Moira MacTaggert checks her over carefully and asserts that Zaladane “must” have been some sort of close relative for the power transfer to have worked.

Figure 10

While we know from X-Men #52 that Lorna was actually adopted by her aunt, fans have used this to suggest that Zaladane was her aunt’s daughter and therefore Lorna’s cousin, who had acquired her aunt’s married surname.

However, in terms of genetics first cousins have 12.5% of each other’s genes (implying, inversely, that 87.5% of their genes are different), whereas siblings have 50% of their genes in common with one another.

Figure 11

So these hints Claremont adds, particularly Moira’s comments, would all seem to point to him intending Zaladane to be Lorna Dane’s sister, and not her cousin.

Claremont has Zaladane return eighteen months later, in Uncanny X-Men #274, trying to steal Magneto’s powers as well…

Figure 12a

…though she was ultimately defeated and killed.

Figure 12b

Again fans’ theories claim that if her power-stealing technique was workable at all with Magneto, this was meant to be a heavy hint on Claremont’s part that Zaladane, Polaris, and Magneto were in fact all closely related. In recent years this has led to the whole long-discredited assertion about Lorna being Magneto’s daughter being dusted off and not only waved in our faces by Chuck Austen, who is on record as having been the worst writer on any core X-title in history, but made established continuity by Peter David.

However, I would argue that Claremont did not mean to hint at this at all, and here’s why!

During his swan song, in X-Men #2, he had made a big deal that Moira MacTaggert had taken genetic samples from Magneto after he had been reverted to infancy in an attempt to cure the instability in his central nervous system caused by his manipulation of the Earth’s magnetic field which had been responsible for his becoming a villain.

Figure 13a

Moira was too thorough to have not cross-referenced Lorna’s DNA during her countless periods on Muir Isle with those she had of Magnus’s, particularly after claims during her introduction as his daughter.

Figure 13b

Nevertheless, Claremont’s first run on Uncanny X-Men ended not long after this, so we never discovered his plans for the true familial connection between Polaris and Zaladane.

If Lorna is her long-lost sister, however, one can adduce that Zala’s father was similarly the sister of the couple that adopted Lorna.

But despite general fan consensus, this is not the only clue we have.

That is, there is one additional clue which has been RIGHT THERE since Zaladane’s introduction…

…the meaning of her name…

While it initially seemed to be an insignificant, arbitrary collection of syllables, upon further analysis one finds the last syllable “dane” means “valley dweller” which could suggest her and Lorna’s ancestors originate from a valley.

Where that valley could be is anyone’s guess until one looks to Zala’s first name which means “beautiful” in Slovene.  So her full name would mean “beautiful valley dweller” (certainly NOT out of the realm of possibility for parents to name their daughter).

This leads to the question: Is there a “valley” in the Balkan region that has been the setting of any stories, or identified as the birthplace of any characters, within the Marvel Universe?

Well not necessarily, until one considers the valley that shared a western border with Yugoslavia which Slovene was considered to be part of at the time of both characters’ introductions.

This valley was below Wundagore Mountain, and was otherwise known as Transia!

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Figure 14c

So might this suggest that Transia was the birthplace of either siblings, or at least their parents?

And if their parents ARE from Transia, might they already be established characters in the Marvel Universe?

While there are perhaps a number of famous candidates for their father, it would seem unlikely that it is Phillip Masters, the Fantastic Four supervillain known as the Puppet Master, since after marrying Alicia’s mother, the couple went on to have NO children of their own.

Figure 14d

One could argue the same for Django and Marya Maximoff as they were already accounted for as parents, having adopted the twins Wanda and Pietro, otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver, from the High Evolutionary after the their mother Magda’s disappearance.

Figure 14ei

That leaves the High Evolutionary himself, Herbert Wyndham.

Figure 14f

But while he knew who Zaladane was when he engaged her as his lab assistant during the Evolutionary War, he did NOT appear to show any paternal instinct toward her.  It is interesting that he DID show paternal feelings at this time to Alex Summers though, the boyfriend of Lorna Dane.  In addition, his surname is not “Dane”.  However, given the fabrications Wanda and Pietro were told with regard to their own biological origins, he could very well have paid Lorna’s adopted parents to change their surname to “Dane” and take on the youngster.

But more on this later, since for now I wish to turn to their mother, a character for whom there was no mention made before the end of Claremont’s first run.

Since Lorna is blissfully unaware of her true origins, to investigate this question I feel we need to look more to Zaladane who was at least aware she had a sister, and for some time apparently given her claim in Uncanny X-Men #249 that she had been searching “the world for you, dear sister”.

Very little was known about the past of Zaladane by the end of Claremont first run.  While not a native of the Savage Land, the circumstances and timing of her arrival in the prehistoric land hidden within Antarctica have yet to be revealed.

One thing is clear though, the dark-haired beauty was mad for power.

So is this a trait she inherited from one of her parents…

…her mother perhaps?!

It is interesting to note that Claremont penned another story closely similar in its attempt to resolve a familial connection back in 1982.  I’m speaking about where he brings the Viper into the pages of Spider-Woman from issue #42, having Jessica interfering with her operations, during which time several characters note the remarkable similarity between the two women.  In her private thoughts Claremont repeatedly has Viper lament over how much she loved Jessica, even while outwardly demanding her death.

Figure 15a

The “truth” then comes in issue #44 that the terrorist, and all-around nihilist, had been possessed 50 years earlier on Mount Wundagore by Chthon who had planned to use her in an unexplained way to free him from his arcane prison within the mount.  But for some reason the demon-spirit found some flaw within Viper that put an end to his being able to use her to end his extradimensional exile.

Figure 15b

Less than a year later J.M. Dematteis retcons Viper being Spider-Woman’s mother in Captain America #281, revealing that Morgan Le Fay had actually implanted her with false memories that she had mothered Jessica on behalf of Chthon.

Figure 16

With his plot nixed, did Claremont then decide to carry it on through the mystery of Lorna and Zaladane’s unrevealed origins?

If so, I’d suggest he would reveal that Viper’s memories weren’t entirely false and Chthon had not implanted the memory of her being a mother but instead the identity of whom she and her daughter had been.

But why the Drews…

To answer this, we perhaps need to go back to why Viper was on Mount Wundagore in the first place, and what of her background up to Claremont leaving had been.

Throughout Viper’s career as a terrorist, in her Marvel comic appearances, she had consistently been shown to use neurotoxins and haemotoxins derived from reptiles.

Figure 17a

Figure 17b

Figure 17c

Figure 17d

But she had never been shown to employ anyone to produce these on her behalf.

This would seem to suggest she had an innate understanding of toxins which may suggest she was secretly an accomplished biochemist herself.

So I’d suggest it works something like this…

After surviving her family’s murder during an unnamed revolution in Europe, the woman who would become Viper came to settle in the valley below Mount Wundagore, Transia.  But while she had escaped with her life, I would posit that the scarring she sustained on the right side of her face was a result of being raped while crossing the border which resulted in her becoming pregnant.

Figure 18

As for when, I’d suggest that it coincided with Jonathon Drew’s departure from Mount Wundagore after the 6th century sorcerer, Magnus, relinquished control of his body after successfully re-binding Chthon within the mountain once again.

Figure 19a

This was in 1958.

But Spider-Woman #44 revealed Viper had been possessed fifty years earlier by Chthon which, since the issue was set in 1982, would mean she arrived on Mount Wundagore as far back as 1932.  However, no revolutions in Europe occurred just prior to this time, the closest being the Klaipėda Revolt which took place in 1923 in Prussia and approximately 1,200kms from Transia.

I’d instead argue that Chthon had lied about how long he’d controlled Viper for and she had in fact arrived in Transia toward the end of Magnus and the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore’s campaign against the demon-spirit.

Figure 19b

If so, the most likely revolution Viper had escaped with her life from is the Hungarian Revolution.

So she arrives in Transia with a young daughter, and is perhaps even witness to the battle.

She struggles to make ends meet after escaping her home and, with an additional mouth to feed in the form of her young daughter, she takes to a life of petty crime such as stealing which continues when she arrives in the valley of Transia.

After settling in the village, she hears rumours of a tower of marvels and thinks she’s hit the payload.  And so it is not long before she makes her way up the mount to break into the High Evolutionary’s “Tower”.

Figure 20a

However, she is discovered by his New Men, who bring her before their master.

Figure 20b

But instead of turning her over to the village’s authorities, he is struck by her appearance and so begins further conversation with her.  Discovering she has an innate flair for biochemistry he encourages her to move into the citadel with her daughter, Zala, and takes her under his wing, having her eventually fill Jonathon’s role as his laboratory assistant.

Having not previously used his Genetic Accelerator on reptiles due to his concern about how aggressive a fully grown Serpent-Man might become, he entrusts her to begin researching how this issue might be overcome.

During their time working together the two fall in love, get married in the citadel and Viper goes on to become pregnant with their daughter.

Unbeknownst to Herbert though, she co-opts the study she has been tasked with to develop a serum derived from reptilian cells to heal the scarring on the right side of her face.  Since the mountain is abundant with vipers (specifically vipera ammodytes which are native to the Balkan region), they become the specimens she exploits for her experiments.  But after countless efforts she is unable to fully ameliorate her facial disfigurement.  However, she does develop a deep affinity for the viper (her studies of
them leading to her becoming an expert in neurotoxins and haemotoxins).

Still tormented by her facial scarring though…

Figure 21a

…she becomes distant from Herbert, obsessed with resolving it.  Due to scientific efforts
being unable to resolve it for her, she recalls her arrival in the village and the battle with Chthon and Herbert recounting how young Jessica’s father, Jonathon, had used the Darkhold to rebind the demon-spirit after Baron Russoff, their neighbour, had used it to attempt to release him.

Figure 21b

One night, telling Herbert she is after additional specimens for her studies, she instead makes her way to Russoff’s castle and, using her skills learned while on the run, breaks in and steals the Darkhold.  She then performs the book’s Spell of Ascension but some flaw within her prevents Chthon from being able to break free from his Earthly prison.

As for what the flaw in Viper is, I’d suggest it is connected to the serpent serum she used on herself in her efforts to cure her facial scarring.  That is, since the serum she injects herself with is derived from vipers living around Mount Wundagore, I would posit that the snakes have been irradiated by the same mineral that similarly binds Chthon within the mountain.  However, while the large mineral stores in Wundagore were previously believed to be uranium, I’d posit they are in fact vibranium (in line with my Grand Unified Vibranium Theory and I’ll explain why further down).

But Viper does succeed in summoning the demon-spirit and begs him to cure her facial scarring.  He agrees to only if she hands over the daughter she currently carries (i.e. Lorna) once born, which in desperation she agrees to.  But as most deals with demons
go, and while her scarring vanishes, she doesn’t quite get what she bargained for.

The spell over, Viper returns to the “Tower” where she is supported by Herbert and Bova to give birth; but upon doing so the demon appears in the birthing chamber to claim baby Lorna as his own.

Sensing Chthon, the sorcerer Magnus returns from the spirit-world once more and this time enters the High Evolutionary, using Herbert’s armoured body to protect Lorna and bear her to a chamber in the citadel where he exposes the infant to a sample of vibranium from the Earth surrounding the mountain.  This immediately protects the child from Chthon’s attempted possession, and it has the additional outcome of turning her hair momentarily green (which occurs again, but this time permanently, when her magnetic powers manifest).

The immediate threat of Chthon having passed, Magnus leaves Herbert’s body but not before explaining to him what has occurred and how vibranium deposits from the surrounds of Mount Wundagore, but not the core, act as a deterrent to the demon.

Since Chthon is unable to claim Lorna, the bargain defaults immediately to Viper who he goes on to possess and when Herbert goes to comfort her she suddenly becomes cold, aloof, distant and detached toward him.  From now on she has no free will and her sole existence is that she will be employed as his puppet, the demon forcing her to carry out his bidding while still retaining a sliver of true humanity in the back of her mind.

As Chthon’s first act in possession of Viper’s body, he compels her to open a portal to his prison using the black orb he has replaced her right eye (similarly damaged when her face was scarred from her assault during the Hungarian Revolution) after Magnus has relinquished control of the High Evolutionary’s body so he can be sent to his domain.

Figure 22

But Herbert manages to overpower her once he dons his armour.  Upset, but similarly enraged that his wife is now beyond his reach and the fact that she was willing to sacrifice their daughter to the demon, he banishes her from the citadel.  While refusing to let her take Lorna he is unable to stop her from taking the older Zala with her.

And so it is Viper leaves Mount Wundagore and the village of Transia with daughter Zala, going on to become agent of Hydra and eventual international terrorist.

Figure 23

Worried that Viper will be compelled by Chthon to eventually return for young Lorna, the High Evolutionary decides it much safer if he adopts her out as he had done with the children of Magneto.  But he decides much further away is necessary this time.  He seeks the counsel of his dear friend Jonathon Drew who approaches his sister who lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband who were unable to have children of their own.  Believing it is better to hide her in plain sight, Herbert and Jonathon decide it is best Lorna goes by the surname of her mother and sister, which is Dane, believing if Viper does decide to hunt Lorna down she is unlikely to look for a family with her own surname.  Their plot hatched, Herbert organises the paperwork so Drew’s sister and her husband become “Dane’s” after which they to move from New Haven to prevent anyone drawing conclusions that she has been placed her relatives of Jonathon.  And so it is that Jonathon’s sister and her husband move to southern California where they go on to raise young Lorna.

Over the years Chthon’s hold on Viper begins to weaken, and in the back of her mind she begins developing a desire to be reunited with her daughter/s.

Figure 24

Chthon is not happy about the idea, though, given his inability to possess the siblings due to their relative exposure to vibranium.

Also, in addition to realising he’ll be unable to convince Viper that she had never been on Wundagore due to their pact the demon recalls another child had lived at the citadel he could use to free himself from his mountain prison… young Jessica Drew.  Given her father Jonathon’s own involvement in hiding Lorna, the demon-spirit feels a delicious irony at the prospect and so implants memories in Viper’s mind that she is in fact Merriem his wife and not the estranged wife of the High Evolutionary.  He even goes so far as to mystically adjust Viper’s facial appearance to be more like the adult Jessica to make the memory real not only to Viper but others around both of them as well.

Does this not provide a much more intellectually-satisfying resolution to the 30 years plus mystery for how Viper came to believe she was Merriem Drew and Spider-Woman was her daughter than the retconned explanation we received from J.M. Dematteis in Captain America #281!?

As for Zala Dane, living under the influence of an agent of Chthon she cannot help but develop a similar nature to that of her sociopathic mother.  Having two such personalities living in the same household causes problems however, leading to Zala leaving her mother who goes on to eventually join the terrorist hordes of Hydra.

Having learned of the mutative effects of the mineral of Mount Wundagore while herself taking an interest in geophysics while living in the High Evolutionary’s citadel, I would posit that Zala independently discovers it is vibranium and comes to understand that she has developed mild psionic abilities as a result of her exposure to the radiation it emits from the Mount.

And so, after leaving her mother, she develops similar plans for world domination and comes to believe the mineral will enable her to fully achieve these goals.

Realising she can never return to Transia due to the mountain being under the protection of the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore…

Figure 25

…and the vibranium mound in Wakanda being similarly protected by the Panther Cult…

Figure 26

…she comes to learn of the Antarctic variant (perhaps by meeting Parnival Plunder) and so travels to the hidden prehistoric land there.

Figure 27

While there she learns of the Sun-People’s god Garokk whom she comes to believe has the power to draw forth the land’s vibranium deposits.  And so using her psionic abilities, which she convinces others are magical skills, she manipulates herself to become their high priestess.

However, upon Garokk returning to the Savage Land she found she couldn’t easily control him and so after his death…

Figure 28

…she had the tribe’s acolytes kidnap radiologist Kirk Marston (who previously helped Ka-Zar defeat the villain Klaw, another vibranium mutate), and exposes him to the liquid from the black pool beneath their city.  Upon being transformed into the Sun God…

Figure 29

…she effectively exerts her control over him using her vibranium-induced psionic abilities and begins compelling him to take over the whole Savage Land.  Despite her psionic abilities leading Garokk to make significant progress in unknowingly helping her achieve her long-term goals…

Figure 30

…Ka-Zar’s allies the X-Men manage to defeat Garokk not once, but twice.

Realising Garokk is not bringing her the success she so desperately craves Zaladane begins changing her game plan.

Taking control of her cult she next allies herself with Sauron…

Figure 31

…who she learns of Polaris from, and ends up deducting the mutant mistress of magnetism is her younger sister left behind on Wundagore.

She then attempts to track her down after her defeat at the hands of the X-Men once again, with the aim of exploiting Lorna’s magnetic powers so she can draw forth all of the Savage Land’s vibranium and use it to threaten the world’s governments if they do not hand control over to her…

…but the trail goes cold once Polaris is possessed by Malice and recruited to lead Mister Sinister’s Marauders, the psionic entity managing to block Zaladane’s psionic tracking.

Figure 32

Once Mister Sinister was seemingly killed during the crisis known as “Inferno” though, Malice’s hold over Polaris weakened, leading to Lorna gaining the upper hand and being able to contact the X-Men for help.

Figure 33

As soon as this occurred, Lorna came back on Zaladane’s radar and her capture by the Savage Land Mutates was almost instantaneous.

And so there you have it, the mystery behind Zaladane and Polaris, and “The Dane Curse” finally resolved after some 25 years!

But I’m not done yet since as there’s still Malice!

Figure 34aIt’s pretty obvious that Chris Claremont drew his inspiration for this character from science fiction author Piers Anthony’s first published novel, Chthon, which was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 1968.

Figure 34bIn this story the main protagonist commits the crime of falling in love with a strange and extremely beautiful woman in the forest named Malice and is therefore condemned to death in the subterranean prison of Chthon.  The protagonist comes to discover that Malice is a legendary and dangerous siren called a minionette, which are females all identical to each other and semi-telepathic, their beauty and youth maintained eternally by negative emotions, whereas positive emotions cause them pain and sufficiently intense love kills them.

I’d therefore posit that Malice is Lorna’s twin sister and she became a being of pure psionic energy while a foetus in her mother’s womb, as a result of Viper’s possession by Chthon, his evil energy making it so that she was able to merge with the negative emotional instincts of others, overriding their personalities and taking control of their bodies.  Her being Lorna’s twin would finally explain why Malice’s energy matrix was so compatible with Polaris’s powers and, if we go by Moira’s theory in Uncanny X-Men #254 about Zaladane, how the two became so easily grafted together, effectively inseparable.  This would further explain why, when Malice attempted to leave Lorna…

Figure 35

…Mister Sinister informed her that he was aware of the connection and that was why he had suggested their union in the first place, telling her that she is “the unchanging pole star”.

Figure 36

We have never previously understood quite what Sinister meant by this phrase, but now it becomes so damned obvious.  Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, is a BINARY STAR, a system which consists of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass.  So when Davan Shakari (Eric the Red) gave Lorna the codename Polaris…

Figure 37

… he obviously knew she was a twin and that she would come to be psionically bonded to her.  Sinister obviously also knew Lorna and Malice were twins, but as to how he discovered this and what destiny his bringing them together pointed to, don’t you think it’s time I was offered a break;)

This has been Nathan Summers, continuing to live up to the sobriquet of “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”!

Postscript: Incidentally, Wyndham means “village near the Winding Way”.  Given Herbert Edgar Wyndham established his citadel of science on Mount Wundagore, above the village of Transia, might this finally suggest it was there that Chris Claremont intended Margali Szardos to have also been born!?

Advertisements

…Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy’s world being in Universe-616?

Demon Spirits

When the Cotati are sent to the moon by the Skrulls to compete with the Kree, as revealed in Avengers #133, I’m wondering if they didn’t so much create the wonderful jungle but rather resurrected the Moon’s past life – which I’d suggest was created from a fragment of the Earth.

I’d then suggest that this “environment” was where Devil Dinosaur and his inseparable ape-pal, Moon-Boy frolicked, and was in fact not a version of Earth in a parallel Earth.

The name Moon-Boy makes much more sense if that’s where he actually lived!

As for what happened to this wonderful jungle since all signs of it no longer remain on the lunar surface, whereas ruins of the city the Kree built still exist on the Blue Area of the Moon.

I’d suggest that some other aliens, perhaps controlled by the Cotati (?the Nuwali?) transport this jungle to a hidden place in Antarctica, to preserve it from destruction, where it becomes the Savage Land.

I’d further suggest that the aliens Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy encountered in Kirby’s original series were also the Kree, pissed that they had lost the competition!

…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).