…Logan’s parentage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 03_WLV10p19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…joining the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Had a Princess ruled Madripoor before Prince Baran…

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

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

…she believed she had inherited the title.

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

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

5. What or who might Seraph be afraid of?

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

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

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

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…X-Men Forever

This post comes from G. Kendall who began his blog Not Blog X to answer a simple question: Were X-Men comics in the ’90s as bad as you think?  The focus eventually began to shift to all mainstream comics from the ’90s, leading him to review everything from Spider-Man’s clone saga to the Archie TMNT series.  Over the years his site has been linked on major comics sites like CBR, The Comics Journal, Newsarama and even the New York Times’ pop culture blog.  Amazingly, ’90s comics haven’t killed him yet, but they have tried very hard at times.

X-Men Forever debuted in 2009 as the latest Chris Claremont X-project. The premise was simple but also intriguing: what if Claremont never left the X-Men in 1991? Claremont’s abrupt departure from the X-Men titles after his historic run of over fifteen years seemed unthinkable to the core fan base at the time. Now, years later, readers had a chance to see what could, or if you’re a certain type of fan, should have happened next.

X-Men 01 1991Hopes were high, but as soon as the preview pages for X-Men Forever #1 were released, Internet Outrage had officially begun. The next chronological issue of Claremont’s run would’ve been X-Men (vol. 2) #4, an early entry in the “merged team” era of the titles that featured an X-Men cast consisting of over a dozen characters. The teams were divided into Blue and Gold squads, with each squad receiving a separate title dedicated to their exploits. X-Men Forever #1 opens with no Blue or Gold squads, just a single group of X-Men that’s missing several established members of the team, circa Claremont’s final issue.

A logical assumption can be made that the other cast members are on a mission and that Claremont never intended for the Blue and Gold squads to have static line-ups. Not that these words were ever spoken aloud in the series, of course, but it’s a painless No-Prize explanation. But, there is a larger problem for the continuity-minded reader. Shadowcat and Nightcrawler, two characters written off years earlier to appear in the British-themed spinoff Excalibur, are now members of the team. A line or two indicates that Excalibur still exists, but what are these two characters doing here? How could this possibly be the X-Men (vol. 2) #4 the readers never got to see?

X-Men_Forever_1_coverThe real reason: a decision was made at some point in the development of X-Men Forever to keep the cast relatively small and not to dwell on every character who should hypothetically be an X-Man. That means around half of the cast is dropped, and two of Claremont’s favorite characters that he hasn’t used in ages pop up as new/old members of the team. Broadly speaking, this is a defensible position, even though the cast will soon balloon out of control with characters that weren’t X-Men in 1991. The execution, however, undermines the premise of the series. X-Men Forever #1 is clearly not the next issue of the Claremont canon, and the questions raised from the awkward transition are never adequately addressed.

Magneto memorialLet’s find a way to get to the starting place of X-Men Forever #1 without causing any continuity headaches. How would I fix the questions of who should be where? I’ll begin with the cast as it exists in X-Men Forever #1: Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Beast, Storm, Jean Grey, Gambit, and Shadowcat. Nightcrawler and Shadowcat are in America for Magneto’s memorial service, as established in X-Men Forever Alpha, and are now considering rejoining the team. Fair enough. Who is missing at this point, following X-Men (vol. 2) #3? Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, and Psylocke haven’t been accounted for. Plus, the mansion’s support staff, Banshee and Forge, is missing. We can’t forget Jubilee, who was last seen in the Muir Island Saga storyline. Her whereabouts during X-Men (vol. 2) #1-3 remain unknown. Future issues of X-Men Forever hint that Psylocke has joined Excalibur, and we later discover that Colossus has returned to Russia to work as a government-sanctioned superhero. Fair enough, again. But that leaves no explanation for Iceman, Archangel, Banshee, Forge, and Jubilee. Where could they have disappeared between issues?

My solution: Australia. Specifically, the deserted outback town populated by the X-Men from Uncanny X-Men #229-#251.

Australian BaseWhen last seen in Chris Claremont’s canon (Uncanny X-Men #269), the X-Men’s outback base had been overtaken by the Reavers. The last X-Man at the location was Rogue, who emerged in her old room after using the Siege Perilous to escape Master Mold. The rest of the X-Men were gone, following the events of Uncanny X-Men #251, which had Psylocke tricking the other team members to disappear through the Siege Perilous in order to avoid a fatal battle with the Reavers. Rogue found herself in enemy territory, fleeing from the Reavers. She promised Gateway that she would find the X-Men and return to help him, as she absorbed his powers and teleported far away. That’s a promise that subsequent writers quickly forgot.

Rogue - Master Mold269-GatewayThe next time we see the outback base in the mainstream continuity (Uncanny X-Men #281,) Gateway is still a prisoner of the Reavers. The X-Men have found the time to defeat the Shadow King, reassemble the team with the members of X-Factor, and rebuild their mansion in Salem Center. But, they never got around to helping poor Gateway. What if, in the Forever continuity, Rogue didn’t forget about her promise? I posit that after the united X-teams battle with the Shadow King, Rogue explains the situation in the outback to her teammates. Their response would not be to sit around and do nothing. It would be an all-out mutant assault on the Reavers! Gateway is rescued, the Reavers are defeated, and the X-Men have control of their former base once again.

What if the months spent rebuilding the mansion were also spent reclaiming the Australian base? So, where did Iceman, Archangel, Banshee, and Forge disappear to? They split their time between Salem Center and Australia, thanks to Gateway’s teleportation powers. What are they doing there? My theory is that they’re training the next generation of young mutants. That’s where Jubilee’s been the entire time: she is the first student of the All-New, All-Secret Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters.

While the school in Salem Center is in fact a home for well-educated adults, the real Xavier school is in a secret ghost town in Australia. What better place to hide the next generation of mutants from a world that fears and hates them? The geography is almost impossible to reach, protecting the school from intruders, while Gateway’s teleportation powers grant easy access for the mutants to travel to any location they wish. The school in Salem Center can be the cover, the public face of the school, while the students are actually in the safest possible location.

Now, you might ask why Xavier himself isn’t in Australia training these mutants. I have two rebuttals. One: the precedent set in the mainstream continuity is that Xavier stays with the adult X-Men in Salem Center while Banshee (with Emma Frost) trains the neophyte mutants in Generation X. It is plausible that a group of X-Men, including Banshee, would be chosen to head up the new, secret school in the outback. Two: who is to say Xavier isn’t teaching these kids? He could reach them telepathically, or travel there at any time thanks to Gateway’s powers. Just because we never saw the events on-panel doesn’t mean they couldn’t have happened. It’s not as if we ever saw the mansion being rebuilt, either.

With the Australian base reintroduced into the series, Claremont has the option to finally resolve all of the danglers relating to Gateway and the outback ghost town. He would not have to shift the focus of the series to this location, but he could throw an occasional storyline towards the “B-team” while also giving the readers the answers he teased decades ago. If anyone is going to unlock the secrets of the Australian base, wouldn’t Forge be the most likely contender?

I can’t speak for what Claremont had in mind for the Australian base, but he certainly planted enough clues following its introduction Uncanny X-Men #229 to indicate that he had some elaborate plans for the future.  (As I’ve mentioned earlier, this site has the most comprehensive list of the danglers and possible resolutions I’ve ever read.)  Why is the computer system seemingly alive?  Why is it exempt from Roma’s spell of invisibility?  Who built the tunnels underneath the town?  What’s Gateway’s connection to the land?  What’s Gateway’s history with the Reavers?  As cryptically hinted in the letters page – why would the full truth behind Gateway cost the X-Men dearly?  Perhaps after some of the answers are revealed, we’ll discover this isn’t the best place to be training teenage mutants.  But would the X-Men discover this information in time?

xterminatorsAre all of these X-Men traveling across the globe for the sake of educating one mutant? Of course not! There are plenty of unclaimed mutants at this point in continuity that could be potential recruits. The X-Terminators are still around, leaving Wiz Kid, Artie, and Leech as potential students. X-Men (vol. 2) #1-3 has already been established as predating Uncanny X-Men #281. That means it could conceivably take place before X-Force #4 as well. X-Force #4 had Siryn joining the team. But, had she been reached by Xavier sooner, it is entirely possible that she would have joined Jubilee in the outback. That’s one more student. Rictor and Wolfsbane are unaccounted for during this period, with Rictor abandoning the New Mutants in order to “rescue” Wolfsbane in Genosha. Shouldn’t the X-Men take care of something like this? And, while we’re at it, wouldn’t the former members of X-Factor be interested in rescuing Rusty and Skids from the MLF? See, there’s an entire student body waiting to be taught at this location.

It’s a simple solution, and it’s a shame X-Men Forever never gave the readers an explanation like this. It’s an easy, one sentence justification for shuffling any unwanted character from this era off the stage. “Where’s Iceman?! I know he was an X-Man at this point!” “Australia.” There. Done! Not only does this solution ease the transition from the original continuity to the Forever continuity, but it leaves several doors open for new stories. It also gives Claremont an opportunity to resolve storylines he was never able to finish in his original run; i.e., what the audience expected from the title in the first place.