Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Throwback Tuesday: Ms. Marvel's Mind Control Turn

Now, strictly speaking, since Chris Claremont barely writes any new comics any more, every entry is potentially a throwback, despite the day it's published. But for now, let's roll with the meme, even if isn't Thursday. Today, we're covering the mess that is Uncanny X-Men I#269.

As regular readers of this all too infrequently updated blog already know, the events of this particular issue have already been kinda covered in this entry from late 08. Still, upon further examination, it turned out we barely scratched the surface of mind control weirdness. Let's start with the basics...

Uncanny X-Men I#269 tells the story of whatever happened to Rogue after she sacrificed herself dragging the lethal robot menace Master Mold through the Siege Perilous back in Uncanny X-Men I#247. The Siege is a mystical portal that leads to a conventiently undefined afterlife where higher powers examine who you were and use it as a basis for your next incarnation. It's like the John Lennon song Instant Karma without Yoko's backing vocals.

Master Mold would return years later as the mysterious, mutant hating Bastion but Rogue was the first one to come back... As, well, herself... So much for advancing along the karmic wheel. She was returned to her old room in the abandoned Australian outback town the X-Men had been using as a base when she went through the Siege. And the minute she returned, she was in for some bad news.

                "It has now been confirmed that Mystique, leader of the federal government's
                                          super-powered strike team... has been killed."

Talk about an ominous home coming... After learning her surrogate mother had been killed, not even noticing the dark, brooding figure of Jacob Reisz behind Val Cooper, Rogue rushed out to inform the  X-Men of Mystique's demise. But, much to her own surprise, she found the X-Men had long since been driven off by the town's former inhabitants: the Reavers. The cyborg mercenaries were ready to kill Rogue, regarding her as little more than the one who got away. But, she was rescued by the most unlikely of people...

              "Surprised, Rogue? Feeling's mutual. We have unfinished business, you and I."

I'll say... Not to mention unreal business. That's Carol Danvers, better known as Ms. Marvel... A woman whose powers, mind and memories Rogue infamously absorbed in between scenes of 1981's Avengers Annual I#10. The real Carol Danvers survived, though robbed of her personality, experiences and superhuman powers. Eventually, due to a supreme effort on Charles Xavier's part, she regained most of her mind and memories and the Brood would ultimately mess with her genetic structure to turn Carol into the white hole powered Binary.

So, in a sense, the one, true Carol Danvers was alive and well... Which left Rogue stuck with a copy of Carol in her mind. The two would often struggle and vy for control of Rogue's body, before she got herself sucked through the Siege Perilous. In the afterlife, Rogue and "Carol" were seperated, spewing both women back out as seperate individuals, because hey kids, comics.

"Carol" was ready to hand Rogue to a knuckle sandwich or two for having been trapped inside her head all those years and she didn't care if she had to punch a hole through the Reavers to do so. An added wrinkle: it seemed that Rogue no longer possessed Ms. Marvel's super strength and flight. All she had to rely on to keep her safe were her original mutant power and personality absorption abilities... Luckily she was able to think (and walk) on her feet: she headed for the teleporter Gateway sitting on the outskirts of town.

                                       "What you won't (ah hope, because you cant) give...
                                                          Ah'm afraid ah'll haveta take."

So, in order to escape from a furious victim of your mind control, you decide to... mind control somebody else? Well, that's one way to solve a problem and hey, it does give you one magnificent tan.

"The bull-roarer opens the gateway portal.
But you have my word, dear friend. I'll be back."

And with that, Rogue is gone moments before "Carol" can catch up. Rogue was able to teleport herself to the Savage Land where she was forced to fend for herself for an extended period of time. Without any powers other than her own, surviving in a dinosaur filled realm that time forgot, Rogue slowly regained her self confidence. But, whatever became of Carol?

           "Welcome to Muir Isle, Carol. How delightful t'see you seperated from Rogue at last."

... Without any explanation whatsoever, "Carol" finds herself on Muir Island where things aren't exactly as she remembers. Moira MacTaggert seems vicious and cold, the sorceress Amanda Sefton appears equally evil hearted and what's Polaris doing there strapped to a wall? All is soon made clear when "Carol" meets the villain to beat.

"Stop it, stop it... I just wanted to play with everybody's head!"

"Carol" quite correctly identifies the astral projection as being Charles Xavier's son David Haller... But, just like everybody else on Muir, the boy isn't himself. So, who's to blame for all these mind control shenanigans... Ow, you guessed it: the Shadow King. And he means business. So much so that he turns himself into a particularly penis nosed reptile to charm Ms. Marvel.

      "My province is the mind. As I claimed this boy, Legion... and all the others on this rock..."

Oh, you can guess what happened next, right?

The Shadow King made sure Carol was his to control, mind, body and soul forever. But just how she arrived on Muir Isle was never touched on in the actual comics. Well, as it turns out, Chris Claremont had planned this particular issue to be but a minor chapter in a larger Shadow King centered storyline that should have run all through Uncanny X-Men I#300. Along the way, it would have been revealed the King didn't merely control Moira and the people on Muir, he was also in command of both the Reavers and Gateway. This would have explained the fact Carol popped up in Scotland... *and* the Savage Land, moments after her conversion.

"We don't possess sufficient life-force between us to sustain two independent beings.
As one prospers, the other rots!"

Mind controlled by the Shadow King, "Carol" is determined to absorb Rogue's lifeforce in order to regain her full potential. All this in an attempt to be able to serve her new master even better. And as it turns out, even being near the monstrous Ms. Marvel's form infected Rogue with the Shadow King's deep, dark influences.

"Her face... she's like a walkin' corpse! Shoot... the same's happenin' to me!"

And, just when things seemed at their bleakest, salvation was at hand from the most unlikeliest of sources... That is, if you didn't spot his helmeted cameo on the cover a little earlier. But first, let's indulge "Carol" in what would prove to be the final speech she'd ever deliver...

"The Shadow King finally managed to track you down. Once you're dust, your powers added to mine... I'll be able to serve him that much better!"

And with a well placed magnetic force blasts, a certain magnetic mutant decided to involve himself. He chose sides and made his presence known.

                                                                       "I chose you."

A good half a decade before the Pokemon craze, Magneto already coined that franchise' most popular catchphrase. With "Carol" dead, Rogue was safe, even though she was roped into fighting the magnetically powered Zaladane along with Magneto, Ka-Zar and SHIELD. After that adventure, she'd find herself on Muir Island only to end up mind controlled by the Shadow King after all in Uncanny X-Men I#278.

                                              "This is wrong! 'Cept it seems so natural."

If only Rogue had told Magneto what she'd been going through, even before the final confrontation against "Carol" in the Savage Land. As it turns out in Uncanny X-Men I#275, the master of magnetism had his own run in with the evil entity. 

"At last I confront the Shadow King. Followed by sick shame at the awful cost of my survival."

Knowing Claremont, he would undoubtedly have revealed the circumstances of Magneto's initial encounter with the King, leading up to the proposed climax in Uncanny X-Men I#300. This anniversary issue should be marked with the death of Charles Xavier and Magneto taking over for the professor full time.

Alas, Claremont more or less willingly left Uncanny X-Men with issue 279, already co-written by Fabian Nicieza and Jim Lee. So a lot of plot threads were left dangling, though Claremont confirmed the connection between the Reavers and the Shadow King in 2001's X-Treme X-Men Annual. It's also not unthinkable he meant to reveal a lot of Magneto's horrendous, evil deeds were indirectly caused by the Shadow King's lingering corruption, which would have made Magnus' intended status quo a lot easier to digest.

Maybe someday we'll know for sure...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control part III: Wrapping It Up As We Go

It's the third and final chapter of Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control in which the wrap up of his umpteenth bout against the Shadow King is prominently featured. It's a Claremont classic, meaning that all of Chris' beloved tropes are trotted out to shine... Let's dig in.

When we last left Kurt, he was in China trying to save his ladyfriend Bloody Bess from the Shadow King, who had used his massive psychic powers to take over the X-Men, the Bamfs and Bess' old teammates the Sea Dogs and the Crimson Pirates. In an impressive show of force, Nightcrawler defeated the possessed X-Men just as his pupils arrived in a stolen Blackbird, all ready to aid their fuzzy blue teacher.

"Watch me fool... as I break your would-be rescuers to my will."

Oh boy... the King is out on another recruitment drive... And in true Claremontian style, before bringing in the Bamfs, he first takes the time to introduce himself by shouting his own name. 

"They are my creatures now. As you soon will be."

The kids are in trouble, but there's really very little Nightcrawler can do to help out. At the moment, he's a little too busy trying not getting killed by Psylocke, who also appears to be enthralled by the Shadow King... Or is she?


Another Claremont trick: the last minute fake-out... Turns out Psylocke was only pretending to be possessed. Right after she went after the escaping Bloody Bess last issue she'd managed to free herself. So how did she escape the Shadow King's control? Well, wouldja believe it happened through mind control?

                                                    "We're sympatico psychics, elf.
Once Psylocke got inside my head, I stole her away from the Shadow King's control."

Sure, that makes sense... If you ignore all the implications of this statement. Apparently, this makes Bloody Bess a stronger telepath than both Psylocke and the Shadow King, who's supposed to be the strongest telepathic presence in the entire omniverse. But hey, the Nightcrawler series is ending in two months so it's only logical little facts like that are glossed over to get the story done in time.

Speaking of which... a hastily agreed on plan is put into action. The Shadow King needs to be put back in his proverbial cage before he escapes inside a new host. In order to prevent that from happening, a lot of punching is involved.

"Possessing Betsy was a mistake... and he failed to seize control of Bess...
their psi-powers protect them."

So, having psi-powers prevents you from getting mind controlled now? Well, can someone explain that to Rachel Grey, who the King controlled last issue without any noticeable difficulties? At any rate, Nightcrawler succeeded in locating and knocking out the King's latest host body forcing him to fully revert to his non corporeal form again. All part of the plan, just like this...

                                                              "Time to go to work!"

Using their psi-powers, Psylocke and Bess launch Nightcrawler's spirit on to the astral plane, sufficiently empowering him to take the Shadow King head on. And when you're fuelled by Betsy Braddock and Chris Claremont is writing you, chances are pretty good you'll get to do this...

                               "This psi-sword focuses every scrap of power from Bess and Betsy.
Plus the totality of my will"

Heck yeah, a last minute "psi-blade/sword/katana that represents the sheer totality of my will"- reference... Truly a can't miss evergreen, not including it would be like a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert without them performing Free Bird. Speaking of birds and freedom, the Shadow King ultimately gets defeated using a subtler form of mind control...

                        "Before the Shadow King can recover, we have to return him to his prison."

His "prison" is Omega Black, a comatose superhuman operative built from the remains of Omega Red. For some reason, the Shadow King can't escape from her mind. Because, well... mainly because the alloted 22 pages were about used up. Thus ends another thrilling Shadow King adventure. Not with a bang, but with a decidedly underwhelming whimper.   

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control part II: Here We Go Again!

When we last left Nightcrawler... The Shadow King had just taken over the band of Neo called the Crimson Pirates to get his hands on their wayward member Bloody Bess. Nightcrawler and the X-Men came to her aid, but the King also took over Marvel's merry mutants forcing Kurt to fight his teammates. 

So, just guess what we got in Nightcrawler IV#9? Basically an issue long fight scene that sees Kurt trying to outsmart a team with two telepaths. 

"Possessed by the Shadow King. They mean to kill me."

No worries Kurt, your name is in the title so chances are you'll live to tell the tale. Still, he's up against rather impossible odds: the X-Men, the Crimson Pirates, the Sea Dogs ánd the Shadow King. Luckily he has his tiny outerdimensional Bamfs to fight on his behalf. 

"Your Bamfs are mine, Bess.. And soon, you'll join them!"

Well, that was fun while it lasted.

As for Kurt trying to deal with his teammates, leave it to Claremont to make what would otherwise be a by-the-numbers fight interesting. Just check Uncanny X-Men I#175 where he has Cyclops fight off all the X-Men who were mind controlled by Mastermind to believe Scott was actually Dark Phoenix. Fun stuff... and while dodging his teammates, Kurt thinks back to how he used to hone his skills against them in the Danger Room. He even has a flashback to a talk he had with Kitty Pryde who i rather seductively stuffing her face with icecream.

"Ogun remade me in his image. He turned me into a weapon."

A flashback inside a flasback... about the time Ogun mind controlled Kitty into becoming a ninja assassin? Well, that's a new one. But wait, there's more!

"We even saved the universe... but we pay a price inside."

Well, it makes sense to include the Brood Queen in that flashback, after all she planted something inside the X-Men that would certainly have changed them, given the chance. But let's get back to the actual story. Nightcrawler's been busy fighting the X-Men, first taking out Psylocke and Rachel to make sure they can't read his mind and predict his moves. Which sounds like a smart move, as long as you're willing to gloss over the fact he is actually fighting Shadow King, an all powerful telepath. But hey, never you mind, time to continue the fight.

"True, the Shadow King controls Ororo's mind... but I know something he does not.
My friend is a proud woman with a ferocious temper."

I guess the best way to help one of your best friends regain control of herself and sense of selfworth is slapping her around until she snaps out of it... Right before falling unconscious.

"You have won nothing! I will claim her again.
She will be my slave forever!"

Ahhh, vintage Claremont lines... But there's no time for Kurt to savor that. After freeing Storm, it's time to move on to free the others... Unfortunately, Shadow King seems ready for that.

"Eventually you will tire and weaken... and make a mistake."
Then, Nightcrawler, you're mine!"

But it's nothing Kurt hasn't heard before and he remains defiant until the very end.

"Let's see how YOU fare, Shadow King".

Dem's fighting words, Kurt... and guess who you missed because she was too busy finding Bloody Bess and turning the Bamfs? Yeah, it's one of Chris' favorite female characters: Psylocke.

Next: well, we all know what'll be next. More mind control and two more issues to go before the inevitable end of Nightcrawler

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control

"Well, thát sure took him long enough..."

I know, I know... It's been a year to the day since this blog was last updated. It's not like yours truly had taken a break from comics blogging, though. I wrote several lengthy retrospectives for Marvel Comics of the 1980s, covering the X-Men's encounters with the Brood as well as the time the Fantastic Four added a fifth member who proved to be nuts. And let's not forget the work for the Marvel Appendix, the online take on the famous Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for which I provided a fair number of noteworthy profiles. You got your Agatha Harkness, you got your Arkon the Imperion, you got your Stu Pfaffenberger... It keeps a body busy.

And, truth be told, I'd have been happy to let the 22nd of November come and go... But thank heavens for Chris Claremont, who returned to Marvel and monthly comics earlier this year with Nightcrawler. It took him eight enjoyable, rather quiet issues...but with the anniversary of absentia coming up there was last Wednesday's Nightcrawler III#8, 22 pages with all the mind control anyone could ever want. Let's dig in...

So, Nightcrawler returned from the dead a year or so ago. In his new solo book he coped with being back from beyond, getting reacquainted with this brave new world. Kurt reconnected with the X-Men and even his lady love Amanda Sefton (who he inevitably lost, hey... it's comics!). Kurt even had to cope with the death of Wolverine. And now, he was thrust headlong into some headgames, a Chris Claremont mainstay!

 "His thoughts are scrambled! There's another presence in his mind!"

... Sigh. It takes one back. 

So, while training Xavier's latest batch of students in the Danger Room, Nightcrawler is suddenly contacted by Bloody Bess. And no, it *does* make sense you don't quite know who she is, but Bess used to be one of the Crimson Pirates, a band of mutants Claremont dreamed up when he took over the X-books back in 2000. Bloody Bess and her teammates were reintroduced by Chris on more than one occassion, as the man has made no secret of playing favorites. In earlier issues, the Crimson Pirates were tasked to capture a young girl with powerful psionic powers.

But things didn't go as planned...

"BIG mistake"

 The Pirates were after her. Luckily Kurt came to her aid, courtesy of the teleporting Bamfs.

"Killian is possessed by someone I know... But who?"

Kurt is forced to save Bess, but he can't help but notice something familiar about all this. Talk about a great tongue in cheek moment. It's almost 40 (!) years since Claremont started his professional writing career... So after four decades of subjecting his characters to an, admittedly, limited number of mind controlling characters their dominating touch can feel familiar. And this one really is familiar, beyond the shadow of a doubt, even.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Your problem, psi-thief, is that you stole Broadside's body, but not his smarts."

So, who was behind all this, then? Not allowing Nightcrawler time to figure it out, the mysterious entity took over Bess and got rid of her. It also spotted the arrival of the X-Men and focused its powers to deal with Marvel's merry mutants.

"Your defenses are breached! Those who might have resisted me are the first to fall!"

Ignoring the fact that in previous stories, Claremont went out of his way to make Psylocke immune to any and all outside tampering... All of the X-Men found themselves getting slowly corrupted, with the mystery menace taking special delight in turning Storm...

"Foolish Storm. I don't need your soul. Not yet. I have your body.
For the moment that will suffice."

So, a mind controlling villain with a clear and distinct obsession for Storm? Well, I guess we all know who's behind this particular caper, then...

"... Shadow King!"
Urgh... Not this guy again. Still, in a world without Charles Xavier, it makes sense for the King to try and make his presence known again. He even tried to take over Nightcrawler, just to complete his set of fallen heroes. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't quite work.

"I'll simply seize your consciousnes as I did theirs... and turn you into my slave!"

And while Kurt was able to resist the King's might because dying and returning to life somehow makes you immune to the malevolent entity's influence... the same could not be said for his fellow X-Men, as we'll find in the closing pages of Nightcrawler III#8.

Ow boy... Se plus se change, eh, Chris? Thanks for bringing me back to the fold. It might as well have been mind control!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post 100 of 2013 aka Meanwhile at Marvunapp...

Sooo... Yeah, hi again.

It may be the 100th new post of 2013, but if I can be frank with you (and no, I won't call you shirley)... This blog has been a little quiet these past few months. Not because yours truly is bored with either comics, Chris Claremont or Chris Claremont writing comics about mind control. Nope, quite the opposite: I've been joyfully suckered into writing for The Marvel Appendix.

I've long since admired the painstaking amount of detail the Masters of the Obscure put into profiling the somewhat lesser known characters of the Marvel Universe. And there are quite a few of those, after all they can't all be Wolverine, Iron Man or Spidey. In the past few months I've had the pleasure of profiling some of my personal relatively unknown characters...

For instance, there's Joe MacTaggert, the man who got controlled mind, body and soul by his own son Proteus. Gone but not forgotten Dire Wraith victim Joe Huntley, not to mention security guard and parttime Kulan Gath hostbody Gus Hovannes?

And who can forget how Selene turned Friedrich von Roehm into a werewolf decades before the Twilight Saga made it socially acceptable for rotund cosplayers to release their inner lycanthrope?

Those of you in the know most likely figured out that all these characters are original Chris Claremont creations, pulled right out of the Clarmindcontrol archives. Profiling them for Marvunapp.com has allowed me to tell more of their backstory, touching on their entire history and not merely focussing on what this blog specialises in: satirizing the mind control element.

But blood is thicker than water, so for the 100th Clarmindcontrol post of 2013, I figured why not have Chris Claremont mind control... Chris Claremont?

"Everyone fears insanity or senility...
The loss of intellect, of the very capacity of conscious thought."

Be sure to check out the full story in the Marvunapp profile I wrote on Chris Claremont in the 616 universe (better known as the mainstream Marvel U)... And for those of you who may think me lazy for not fully exploring on here what happened to Chris C back in Man-Thing I#11... I dare you to read the abbreviated version. Go ahead, I'll wait...


See, told you?

Anyway, long story short: the blog will continue, there are still plenty of stories to tell. Should be fun!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grimly Reaping Mind Control

Today's entry just might be Chris Claremont's earliest credit: August 1972's Avengers # 102.

Remember the days when covers were connected to the story and even contained dialogue? Not to mention when the Avengers were giant, floating heads looking shocked and judgemental? The 70s were a wild and crazy time for all of us.

Fair's fair: Chris Claremont doesn't actually write this issue, regular Avengers scribe Roy Thomas is responsible for working out what the Grim Reaper wants the Vision to do. But he does give credit to Claremont for giving him the idea to tell this particular tale... And of course, it involves mind control. 

It all starts with Vision being summoned by the Grim Reaper, because apparently back in the 70s, Avengers paid social calls to their villains in their secret headquarters without telling the others. The Vision wasn't feeling very sociable, though. He had slowly developed feelings for his teammate the Scarlet Witch but felt his android nature would make it impossible for him to court her. Somehow, the Reaper had clued in on this and hatched a plan. 

"Join me, and I can transfer your present brain into that body... and make it live again!"

This story continued the Grim Reaper's longtime obsession with his brother and the Avengers. In fact, Eric Williams only became the Reaper so he could avenge his brother's apparent demise at the hands of the team. Now, with the introduction of the Vision, whose android mind was based on a blueprint of Wonder Man's brainwaves, the Reaper's obsession took on a whole new level.

"Well, don't mull too long! Even my patience is not without limits."

And here I was thinking homicidal maniacs with a scythe for a right hand weren't known for their patience. Anyways, the notion of gaining a body that's not made of red plastic in order to court Wanda is a tempting one. Still, Vision's a hero...

"What prevents me from capturing you here and now... then seizing my former human shell?"

Isn't that interesting? The Vision wants to do the right thing... and if the right thing is putting a villain behind bars, only to do exactly what he wanted and desecrate the corpse of his brother anyway... Hey, then so be it. But the Reaper wasn't born yesterday...

"In short: it is booby-trapped to the hilt!
Touch me... And you remain an android forever."

If the Punisher is any indication, men who wear all black and a skull for a costume aren't known for their compassion. But at least Frank Castle is a competent tactician. The Reaper's one bargaining chip was his brother's body, which he threatens to destroy if Vision tries to stop him. It's like threatening to kill a hostage when that person is actually the one thing that prevents the police from shooting you.

All that seemed lost on Vision, who simply wanted to leave. The Reaper didn't stop him, but he would be a lousy host if he didn't give his house guest a parting gift. 

"It seems... harmless enough! I'll keep it... as a memento of sorts"

That's right, the Grim Reaper gave Vision a crossbones medallion that doubled as a communications device... before revealing his secret headquarters secretly belonged to someone else. Someone who probably won't notice the cryogenic unit with the semi-dead superhero just sitting there. 

Roy Thomas soon left the book and incoming writer Steve Englehart eventually resolved this story in Avengers # 106 - 108. In this threeparter, the Grim Reaper teamed up with the Space Phantom to defeat the Avengers. Oh, and the whole 'have my kinda-dead brother's body' proposal turned out to be a convoluted lie, a ploy by the Reaper to plant the idea of obtaining a real body in Vision's head. Because the actual body the villain wanted his 'brother' to inhabit was Captain America's.

Just cos. 

Long story short, Vision kindly turned down the invitation to take over his teammate's brain. The Avengers took care of the Reaper, the Space Phantom and their flunkies and in the end, the experience gave Vision the confidence to open up to the Scarlet Witch and show his feelings. And with that, the first seeds towards their inevitable wedding were sown...

Not bad for a single Claremont idea!