Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Mutants, forever mind controlled

What to do with a living legend who mostly seems loved by nostalgia buffs?

Marvel Comics saw itself faced with this question back in 2009 and came up with a simple enough answer: You create an X-men book outside of continuity in which Claremont could tell the stories he would have told if he hadn't been forced out back in 1991.

This title, X-men Forever, turned out to be reasonably succesful, so Marvel approached Claremont to do the same for New Mutants. A book he left back in 1987.  Today's entry comes from that five part mini series, imaginatively called New Mutants Forever.

Lets skip over the story of the mini series. It involves the New Mutants going to Nova Roma, the ancient Roman town in the Brazilian Amazon that time forgot... Only to find that its been taken over by the Red Skull. Everyone's favorite nazi supervillain captured Doug Ramsey and gave him... a little injection.

Doug was remade into the Red Skull's own image...So, you know what that means... Ow boy, is his face red, or what?

The Skullified Doug caused all sorts of trouble, naturally...

So... in one miniseries... All it takes for three people to get mind controlled, dress themselves in nazi regalia and black leather... is a single injection? Who said this wasn't the marvel age of economy sized tirany?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Doomed to be mindcontrolled

Does anyone remember Heroes Reborn? No, no, let me rephrase that...Does anyone want to remember Heroes Reborn? 

Back in 1996, the powers that (used to) be at Marvel asked Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to update and redefine The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Captain America and Iron Man. This caused over 30 years of backstory to get tossed out the window, along with the actual heroes.  

They apparently died during the travesty that was the Onslaught crossover and started out fresh on a new Earth inside a pocket universe created by Franklin Richards who carried it around inside his favorite ball.

If you think thát's a bad premise, you should read the actual stories. What what was supposed to be an ongoing line of titles bombed so badly, it was retroactively called 'an experiment' and mercifully ended after 13 forgettable issues.

Peter David wrote the mini series that returned the heroes home, but by the end of that mini the Heroes Reborn Earth was still around. As it turns out, the departure of the heroes had a devastating effect on the remaining population. Sure, they may only have been fake people dreamed up by a little boy, but figments of imagination need love too.  

Unfortunately, what they got was Doom. 

Doctor Doom.

In early 2000, Chris Claremont penned a number of Doctor Doom related Heroes Reborn specials that focussed on the good Doctor's efforts to gain control of Counter Earth in order to save it. First thing's first... he needed some help.

In this case, Samantha Dunbar... a woman who risked her own life saving Doom from certain death when she discovered him drowning. He thanked her by making her his assistant, but not without a little tweaking...

As it turns out, everyone on Franklin's Counter Earth has the potential for super powers. Doom helped unlock Samantha's, and also gave her a costume and implants, linking her to him. What he knows, she knows and vice versa. Talk about forcing people to do your bidding...

And thus was born... Lancer. A typical Claremont heroine: remarkably intelligent, yet sassy and funny, a natural genius in whatever's required...Add to that the black leather outfit and the tendency to yell out her own codename every other minute and you're good to go.

Time to get to work. In trying to figure out the threat to Counter Earth, Doom and Lancer came across Ashema, a Celestial introduced by Peter David in the Heroes Return mini. She had relinquished her powers and taken on human form in order to understand humanity. It also left her vulnerable... to mind control.

That talkative slick of black oil is called Divinity, a creature capable of bonding itself to a host and draining him or her, while forcing the body to do his biding. Think Venom symbiote, only more chatty.

Divinity was quickly defeated by Lancer, after which Doom offered him a spot as one of his generals. Because...? Well, because even a villain trying to do the right thing needs a group of baddies around him, it seems. Divinity became the first of four generals... Meet the other three.

In short, there's Divinity, followed by head battle mage Shakti of the Enchanter's Guild. The techno organic creature Technarx makes three and Dorma, warrior queen of Atlantis rounds out this motley crew of baddies. Yet, despite their obvious differences, they're all just as power hungry and tyranical as the man they claim to obey.

And ow yeah, they sure do love mind control.

Which is something poor Lancer had to discover over and over again...

Shakti was the first to try and control Lancer, using her magics to subtly mind control her into believing she was anything but Doom's loyal assistant... Thereby making the good Doctor vulnerable to a coup. Lets see how that turned out...


"I am LANCER".
Yeah, nice try there. Also: remember how Doom bonded himself to Lancer, so he would be intimately aware of everything that happens to her? Taking her out would only serve as an early warning system. Ah well, that bit of common sense didn't stop his generals from giving it another go.

Technarx tried to infect Lancer with his transmat virus, turning her into one of his techno organic drones. Sounds simple enough...How did it turn out?

"I spit a mouthful of chip flakes"

... Its been over 12 years since I first read that line and I still can't eat a potato chip without thinking of that particular panel. Weird, eh?

Ah well... When Doom remade Lancer in his image, he not only gave her super powers, he also made sure she was impervious to most forms of mind control. Except his own of course. Its a good bet Doom would have extended the same upgrade to all of his generals, had he known what was about to go down when he met with the Lady Dorma.

Yes, the villain of the piece finally showed himself: the Dreaming Celestial. A creature with a history so convoluted, I happily refer to his Wikipedia entry if you're really interested in its origins and motivations. Long story short: The Celestial had his own plans for Counter Earth and didn't care for Doom's meddling. 

But Doom's armor was too strong to breach, so he decided to take over Lady Dorma and use her looks to persuade Doom to drop his guard. Luring a man out of his shell... by offering him a clam?

Ah, irony...

Fortunately, Doom wasn't fooled for an instant. He defied the Celestial, managed to return Counter Earth to the Marvel Universe proper and joined forces with the Fantastic Four to take on the Dreaming One once and for all.

This leads to more mind control shenanigans, but we already covered that HERE.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Psylocke's first time...

The thing about telepaths: once you have them on your team, its pretty much a given you'll end up mind controlled. Comes with the territory... And the X-men have always had what seems to be a busload of mind readers and thought benders... Heck, the team was founded by one.

Nowadays, he's the team's undisputed moral conscience. But in the early days, Charles Xavier didn't think twice about stopping someone from thinking twice...

Charlie was king of the mind rape...From turning the Vanisher into a powerless amnesiac in
X-men # 2 to actually making Beast's parents forget they had a mutant son because Xavier figured it would be easier and less painful for everyone involved... All in a day's work.

Jean Grey must have been taking notes in class, because she used the old mind control trick too on occasion, for instance when she manipulated Kitty Pryde's parents. for instance.

Yet, of all the X-men's telepaths, Psylocke was the most conservative when it came to using her mental powers to control others.

Which is a little odd, considering she was created by Chris Claremont. But, no worries, Uncanny X-men # 252 finally saw Betsy Braddock lose her mind control virginity when she forced all her fellow X-men to go kill themselves. 

Confused? Don't be...

In the latter days of the X-men's stay in the Australian outback, the team was in rough shape after losing members left and right. Longshot had gone missing, Rogue was sucked into the Siege Perilous and vanished, Storm seemingly died and Wolverine was nowhere to be found either.

What's even worse: while they were away on a mission in the Savage Land, the Reavers had invaded the little desert town the X-men had been using as their base of operations. The criminal cyborgs planned a little ambush for their enemies.

Psylocke picked up on the Reavers' presence the second Gateway teleported them back home. Realising they were in no shape to take them on, Psylocke figured a self inflicted death would be preferable to being shot to bits by the approaching cyborg army. Of course, simply asking Gateway to teleport them to safety would have been an option too, but hey... who said this stuff has to make sense?

Betsy pulled out the Siege Perilous, a gem that's actually a portal to the afterlife. Wait, Roma will explain it...

Prefering this kind of death, Betsy turned her psi powers into overdrive and made sure everyone on the team agreed with her that suicide really is quite painless.

"It feels like we're running away" No, Dazzler, running away would be having Gateway teleport you away... You DO know he's sitting a few feet away from you, right? Anyways, Peter passes through the portal and Dazzler smells a rat.

With only Havok left to persuade, the following exchange is golden.

After Havok had passed on through, Psylocke awaited the approaching Reavers and said goodbye before entering the Siege herself.

"You'll kill no X-men today!"

True, you singlehandedly beat them to it. So take a bow, Betsy Braddock, you have succeeded  where Magneto and a half a dozen superbaddies failed: you killed off all the X-men. You're now the team's worst enemy. 

Accomplishing all that in only your first try at mind control? As far as first times go, that's like losing your virginity in a 12 body gang bang at a Tijuana donkey show. 

Sidenote: did anyone else notice the CHINK! sound effect the Siege gem made in the previous panel? I'm sure that was just a totally random occurence and has absolutely no influence whatsoever on Betsy's reincarnated new form...


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Bachelor: Shadow King Edition

Would you date this man?

The Shadow King has been portrayed in a variety of ways over the course of Chris Claremont's involvement with the character. Yet, all the King really wants is to love and be loved back. But finding romance can be tough, especially as he started out as a corpulent and sweaty, sitting in a Cairo cafe in Uncanny X-men #117...

The King as a fat, fez wearing Egyptian not really your type? Well, no worries... You see, Shadow King is actually a mental presence without a permanent physical body. He can hop bodies as he sees fit... So, if you like him to be a domineering woman, its his pleasure!

Well, of course she's a big girl... Hey, more to love, right?

Or maybe you prefer your dream man to be, well, a man.. A man who is less bloated,  slightly more caucasian and proves his manhood by growing a beard? Shadow King can manage that... And it makes all the ladies swoon and sob a little too...

Yet... all of these loves seem to involve a fair amount of mind control. Now, don't get me wrong, when you're a highly evolved disembodied telepathic presence, you'll find very little wrong with some old fashioned brain tampering, but... is that really how one finds Ms. Right?

No, of course not... And any ol' bachelor usually has his mind set on one particular gal. In this case, there's a certain mutant mama he's been gunning for all along...

Ah, no, no, sorry. Sure, Chris Claremont established that the Shadow King and Storm share a long history, going back to when she was a street urchin girl in Egypt... It seems her mentor Achmed Al Gibar promised the young Ororo to the King, but having a middle aged man force his will upon a minor just won't do.

In fact, its probably safe to say the Shadow King is spoken for. He knows who he really wants and it makes a lot of sense. He loves taking over minds, so who better to welcome as his Shadow Queen than Rogue, a woman who forcibly takes over another person's mind just by touching them.

Ahhh... Its the old story... Disembodied boy meets and mind controls power leeching girl and *BAM*, magic starts to happen.

Still, before anything substantial came out of this sensual seduction scene from Uncanny X-men # 278... Xavier and his X-men defeated the King.

But, wherever evil exists, the King lives...And he doesn't just forget about his love interest. This explains these scenes from X-treme X-Men annual 2001 when Rogue found herself face to face with the Shadow King again...

Ah yes... take the time to read this dialogue. Its Chris Claremont basically stating all that's been happening to Rogue over the past decade and a half is actually part of the Shadow King's plan. 

He wanted her by his side as his consort, the Shadow Queen, but she had to be properly groomed for that, so Shadow King influenced everyone around her... From the precog Destiny to Mystique, even Charles Xavier was unwittingly roped along so Rogue would become...

The Shadow Queen. Yet, Rogue declined his suggestion and broke free not long after that. So, if anyone out there wants to date a man who isn't too eager to let you escape his shadow... and will probably beat you severly if you dare eclipse his greatness... step right up.

... Ow Rihanna, what *ARE* you doing here, girl?

Rachel's Grey For Mind Control part 2

When we last saw Rachel, she had just danced her way off the Spiral Path, straight into the Mojoverse.

After being used as Mojo's mindless, mind controlled puppet for heaven knows how long, Rachel finally returned to the 616 proper in the Claremont penned oneshot ExcaliburThe sword is drawn. 

Rachel went on to join Excalibur, the UK based offshoot of the X-men, alongside Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and non-mutant members like Captain Britain and his girlfriend, the empathic omnimorph Megan.

Alas, even in this new book, Chris Claremont couldn't resist having Rachel subjected to mind control... The earliest case occured in the Inferno tie ins, in which Excalibur travelled to a demon infested New York city and Rachel, well... she went a little nuts:

This particular image is worth an entry of its very own. The inherent power of the demonic Inferno, causes Rachel to freeze up, literally turning into a mindless mannequin... Making her easy prey for the demon Crotus who falls head over heels for the stiff stunner and decides they should get married.

As a member of Excalibur, Rachel experiences several remarkable adventures. In one of those, chronicled in the limited series X-men: True Friends, Rachel and Kitty are transported through time to face off against the Shadow King in 1930s Scotland.

The Shadow King you say? Guess who got herself mind controlled!

As if that wasn't enough, not long after that Excalibur embarks on the Cross-Time Caper, an extended adventure that takes the team to several alternate Earths across the Omniverse. On one of those, Rachel not only discovers that her mother Jean Grey is alive and well, she's also a part of the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club ánd mind controlled by the Shadow King...

An interesting page, showing just how eager everyone seems to be to catch and control young Rachel. The Excalibur Special Editions mentioned in the captions never saw print by the way. The tale however did get published 9 years after the fact as the aforementioned True Friends limited series.

After Chris Claremont left Excalibur, Rachel went through a decade and a half of other writers who did whatever they could think of to her... Some of it made sense, most of it sadly didn´t. For an overview of the highs and lows, click HERE.

It wasn´t until 2003 that Claremont brought in Rachel, when he was writing X-treme X-men. Back then, the team was under assault by Elias Bogan, an obscenely powerful, long lived telepath with connections to the Hellfire Club but in *NO* way resembling the Shadow King *cough*copout*cough.

Bogan had somehow managed to mind control Rachel and used her as an attack dog against the X-men.

Mainly due to the efforts of Kitty Pryde, the X-men managed to free Rachel from Bogan's influence, though he had left his ebon mark on her, as shown in X-treme X-men 46...

Rachel joined the rest of the X-treme team when they decided to return to New York and the other
X-men. That whole Bogan-caused blackness seemingly cleared up over night, because the next time she shows up in Uncanny X-men she gets herself a new uniform, a new haircut and a new codename: Marvel Girl, in honor of Jean Grey, her recently deceased mother from an alternate reality... You know, as one does.

Is that little nugget of backstory enough to make your head spin? Try this on for mind controlled size...

Uncanny X-men #454 saw the return of a new Hellfire Club and Selene attempting to sink her claws into Rachel once again. Still, that didn't quite work out for the raven haired vampire...

"I have been a slave before, Selene. Never again."

Yup, for those of you who love mind controlled women, but prefer them just a bit more primeval... its prehistoric dinosaur Rachel, better known as R'chel. She wasn't just transformed into a sentient dinosaur, she also found herself mind controlled as well...

Now, I'm not saying the resemblance between dinosaur Rachel and 1950s Phyllis Diller is remarkable... but you have eyes, you tell me.

Soon after the conclusion of the Selene story, Chris Claremont's health took a turn for the worse and he was forced to abandon Uncanny X-men. But not before he was able to kick Rachel in the proverbial nuts one final time.

Rachel had been showing signs of tapping into the cosmic Phoenix Force again. This made the interstellar Shi'ar race rather uncomfortable, considering the last time one of the Grey family got a little Phoenix craving, all existence was about to die.

Therefore, once it became obvious that Rachel had access to the Force, the decision was made to exterminate her and, just to be sure, the entire Grey family.

Claremont left the title shortly after the Shi'ar Death Commandos were done mass murdering Rachel's entire family... Chris left his character with a giant phoenix tattoo imprinted on her back, almost like a creator's watermark. Hard to ignore, yet even harder to work into your stories.

Chris Claremont made his mark on Rachel Grey-Summers... if only we were able to forget about as much as Rachel was allowed to...

Rachel's Grey For Mind Control

Before Chris Claremont focussed his mind control heavy attention to Sage (as chronicled here), there was Rachel Grey, aka Rachel Summers, aka Hound, aka Baby Phoenix aka "oh, never mind who you really are, your mind, heart and soul will belong to someone else by next issue".

Don't believe me? Well, buckle up for the first of a two parter covering all the occasions Chris Claremont felt it was necessary to mindjack that sweet, innocent red headed girl. Some of these examples have been covered in earlier blogs, but are included here again to tell the complete story.

Rachel made her first appearance in the classic Days of future past storyline back in Uncanny X-men # 141. She was the red headed telepath that used her powers to send Kate Pryde's mind into the past so she could warn the X-men of the imminent assassination of senator Kelly.

Back then, no mention was made of Rachel's origins. Yet, she really is the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, born in an alternate future in which Jean (or, rather, the Phoenix force posing as Jean) survived the judgement of the Shi'ar in Uncanny X-men # 137. 

Young Rachel grew up at Xavier's school for gifted youngsters and enjoyed a relatively joyful early childhood... that is, until the political climate took a turn for the worse and the school was attacked by anti-mutant troops. Rachel was taken prisoner and, when her telepathic powers manifested themselves, she was placed in a special project that made the following disturbing scene possible.

Rachel was subjected to intense mind altering drugs and hypnosis that did a real number on her mind and might possibly have made her more susceptible to other forms of mind control. It would certainly explain what was to follow...

She was forced to use her telepathy as one of the first Hounds, mutants enslaved by the government to hunt or kill their own. And, in true Claremontian style, it only made sense that a Hound would wear a costumed made of studded, black leather and a leash. Sigh.

Somehow overcoming her conditioning, Rachel reconnected with Kate Pryde and they went on one, final desperate mission together to infiltrate a military base in which a new, deadlier generation of Sentinel was being developed. And yet, even here she wasn't safe from mind control...

Kate Pryde had hypnotised Rachel, planting a hypnotic suggestion in her mind that would force her to push her powers to the limit and actually transport herself into the past... As seen in this rather realistic flashback from Uncanny X-men # 192.

Rachel actually arrived half a dozen issues earlier in issue #184, yet her first contact with the X-men of this era occured in New Mutants # 18, which showed a newly arrived and clearly malnourished Rachel returning home to Xavier's school, only to discover things aren't quite the way she remembers them...

Mulling over this some more, Rachel returned to New York city in Uncanny X-men # 184, in which her  potent mutant energies caught the attention and appetite of the vampire Selene. She went after Rachel several times, trying to turn her into her heir or, failing that, lunch...

Selene had associated herself with the Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club by that time. She also had some interest in the New Mutants, particularly Magma and Moonstar, due to a shared history covered HERE

So when Rachel and Magma happened to be on a field trip to New York in Uncanny X-men # 189, they talked it over and decided to enter the Hellfire Club and have a little revenge on Selene for all she put them through. Now, you just know the following was bound to happen:

Still, take a little time to appreciate the subtle symbolism of this panel. Rachel and Amara had attempted to infiltrate the Hellfire Club by wearing servants' uniforms, complete with black fishnet stocking and a collar. Selene added insult to injury by having them leashed and presented as gifts to Sebastian Shaw, the leader of the Inner Circle. 

Wow. Just. Wow.

All these encounters left Rachel pretty mad with Selene. So mad in fact, that she decided to have another go at killing her... This time taking a page out of the old mind control manual... 
Uncanny X-men # 207 saw Rachel mind controlling Hellfire Club member Friedrich von Roehm.

Mind controlling three people on one page? And managing to fit into another one of those skintight, raunchy-as-can-be French maid's uniforms? Ow Rachel, you truly got it all worked out. She managed to surprise Selene in her sleep and almost succeeded in killing her, if not for the timely intervention of fellow X-man Wolverine. Lets see how he persuaded her to stop...

If at first you don't succeed... SNIKT!... SNIKT! again.

Rachel actually survived Wolvie's attempt to calm her down. She was hurt though, fleeing the Hellfire Club, using her telekinesis in a desperate attempt to keep her fatal wounds from opening up. Pursued by both the X-men and the Hellfire Club, she came across a weird manifestation in Central Park. 

Rachel unknowingly entered the Body Shoppe, an interdimensional conduit into the Mojoverse, ran by none other than Mojo's flunky Spiral. She ever so gently managed to lure Rachel away from her worries...

"The girl you were is gone, the life you led is no more! Both girl and life are mine to play with. What comes next, I decide!"

Well... not really, Spiral... Its actually Mojo who decides what happens next to Rachel. As we'll see in part two...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spiders, viper and self inflicted mind control

Besides his obvious soft spot for mind control, Chris Claremont also has a well established penchant for writing strong women... Scratch that, strong women who preferably dress in black leather. This makes Chris a natural fit for writing......

"I crave excitement... suspense!

No worries Black Widow... you won't soon forget any of the thrill ride that is Marvel Team Up issues 82 through 85... Ow, wait, you don't know who you are to begin with? Ah, guess that explains issue 82 then.

The arc starts out routinely enough with Spider-Man stopping the mugging of a red haired woman. However, he's shocked to learn that she's a dead ringer for the Black Widow... Yet, that's not who this redhead claims to be. 

"Mmmmm-- this is good"

Know what isn't as good? Late 1970s Marvel coloring. Honestly, 'Nancy Rushman' either looks like an Asian lady wearing a red fright wig, or a low budget Tigra. Anyways, Spider-Man can't get over the fact that this supposed elementary school teacher looks so much like a certain ex Soviet super spy he knows.

He spends some time trying to figure out whether or not Nancy is the Widow, even getting her to dress in a spare Black Widow uniform. This brings up some rather painful memory flashes. 

Despite that ordeal, nothing substantial comes in to focus. Spider-Man decides to take 'Nancy' to SHIELD, the spy organisation Black Widow works for. But, it seems like the agency has already found them.

Why would SHIELD be attacking one of their own? That's so... out of character for them. Almost as if they were... Mind controlled? Ah yes, that would be this lady's doing:

The Viper had been secretly plotting to conquer the world using a hypnobeam (mind control by any other name) to take over the Helicarrier, SHIELD's massive flying fortress.

Her big plan: by crashing the SHIELD base on Washington DC just as then US president Jimmy Carter was giving a major policy speech, not only would she take out the president and most of America's leaders,  it would leave the entire planet shocked and vulnerable for her terrorist group Hydra to move in and make their move. 

Now, I'm no expert on world domination, let alone the logic of a terrorist supervillain who insists on wearing emerald lipstick...

But if you're crafty enough to come up with a mind controlling hypno ray so potent it turns an entire  Helicarrier full of superspies into your slaves... Wouldn't it be a lot easier to just walk into the White House and activate aforementioned device? Less of a mess, more mindless drones in high places to boss around. Just a thought...

Still, getting back to the mystery of Nancy Rushman and Natasha Romanova... The Widow had actually discovered Viper's scheme early on, but was captured and subjected to intense torture. So intense, in fact, that this happened:

So... If you were Viper and you have a mind control device lying around that turns anyone into a helpful slave with the flick of a switch... Would extreme torture to the point of self induced schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder really be the way to go?

Needless to say, by the time the trilogy ended in Marvel Team Up # 85, Viper was defeated and the Widow returned to normal, thereby condemning the Nancy Rushman aspect of her personality to 'die off' as well.

You might think ridding yourself of an unwanted alter ego would be a good thing, especially when it only came into existence because your mind couldn't handle the intense trauma it was being subjected to. But guess what...

Yes, Spider-Man is actually a little disappointed Black Widow was herself again... 

You see, in the last three issues, Spidey had developed more than a little crush on 'Nancy Rushman', the scared, wimpering school marm who hang on to him for dear life whenever anything remotely threatening happened.

So that's our hero: a guy who forces a scared, fragile woman to change into the woman *HE* knows she could be, even dressing her up in skintight black leather. And once he succeeds in his goal, he leaves heart broken once it becomes clear she isn't as subservient and pliable after all...

Bet you wish you had a miniature version of Viper's hypno ray in your beltbuckle now, eh, Spidey?