Sunday, July 22, 2012

Masque minus mind control: Tea & Tentacles

After 100 entries on mind control, lets give that particular quirk of Chris' a little rest and focus on another of his guilty pleasures: the physical alteration and mutilation of his leading ladies... Preferably by having them grow tentacles for hands.

Now, before anyone stands up and yells 'tentacle porn alert!'... Keep in mind it might not be as Freudian as it sounds. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, even if its being written by a man whose female characters enjoy dressing up in black leather whenever they're feeling either naughty or evil.

In fact, involuntary body modification goes as far back as the 1950s and the dozens of goofy Superman stories involving mishaps with multicolored Kryptonite. Even Stan Lee had Spider-Man grow some extra arms, not to mention the Thing's unfortunate transformation or Bruce Banner's uncontrollable shifts into the Hulk.

Chris's dabbling in the genre really started during the Brood saga. The parasitic aliens allowed him to combine his first love mind control with his new sweetheart: unwanted transformation.

Speaking of tentacle porn, look at the stingers on thát one...

Pretty quickly after that storyline, Claremont decided to explore body modification and notions of beauty some more by having Angel captured by Callisto and her Morlocks Uncanny X-men # 169 & 170. Callisto planned to marry the beautiful X-man, no matter what the other X-men had to say. These issues also introduced the Morlock known as Masque, who... oh, let him explain his own shtick.

Incidentally, Uncanny X-men # 170 was one of the first X-men issues yours truly ever read. These scenes had a lasting impact on an eight year old's mind. 

"STOP IT!! She's not a toy, she's a human being... who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect!"

Words to live by, Chris...

Anyhoo, Masque molds flesh as easily as clay, reshaping a person's body any way he sees fit... Unfortunately, he can't affect his own deformed figure, making him rather resentful of people he considers 'pretty'...

Masque would be responsible for several forced physical transformations, specifically the aforementioned tentacled ladies trick. But he was usually just plain cruel. Case in point: Look at what he put poor Kitty Pryde through in Uncanny X-men # 179. 

This scene only happened because Kitty was forced to honor the promise she made Caliban after he helped the X-men save Angel. In return, she would marry him and join the Morlocks. However, as part of the Morlock initiation ritual, Masque gets to radically alter your old appearance so you can truly start your new sewer life... fresh faced.

Kitty didn't really take to Masque's meddling, in a scene that nicely mirrors Nightcrawler's reaction nine issues earlier.

Angering a disfigured mutant who can turn you into anything he wants? Sheesh, and I thought Kitty was supposed to be the smart one.

Not exactly a pretty picture. But, easily reverted. In the years that followed, Claremont found Masque's real niche: tentacles! 

Jean Grey's transformation was all part of a plot too complex to explain here. But it involved Masque recasting some of the Morlocks into twisted versions of the X-men who at that time were presumed missing and/or dead.

After being utterly horrified by her new appendages, Jean actually learned how to control and use them in battle effectively. Naturally, this look was reversed before long. That didn't stop Claremont from having Masque try it again during the events of 2003's X-treme X-men storyline Storm: The Arena.

Targetting his old boss Callisto, Masque gave her a set of python like tendrils... an addition Cal actually welcomed and gladly kept her altered appearance at the end of the story.

Speaking of altered appearances... Remember how Masque's main frustration was being trapped in a horrifyingly scarred body his powers couldn't affect. This drove him to commit most of his violent, antisocial acts. Such a cruel twist of fate, if only he could help himself...

Say what? Claremont had Masque experience a secondary mutation that removed this limitation?

Wow, that means he'll jump at the chance to finally fix himself up. Can inner peace be far behind when one's greatest hang up has been dealt with?

Lets see how zen Masque looked when he appeared next...

Yup, he changed himself alright. From a sadistic, crusty, old disfigured man in the sewers to a beach blonde Marilyn Monroe-esque bimbo who likes to wear geisha outfits, and runs an underground superhuman fighting arena with her entourage of SM inspired lackies.


What an arc! Chris, you magnificent bastard you. Never...ever change, y'hear?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kulan Gath's total mind control part II: Ye Olde Mind Control

When we last left Manhattan, the recently revived ancient devil priest Kulan Gath had used a master spell to turn the entire island into a Hyborean citystate. Quickly conquering his many super powered enemies, Gath seemed utterly unbeatable. 

Even the Hellfire Club's Selene, as ancient and malevolent as Gath himself, was the N'garai worshipping sorceror's help (and mouth)less prisoner. But Kulan Gath wasn't satisified with merely mentally controlling the Morlocks, a fair share of the New Mutants and most of the Avengers. No, he wanted more mindless pawns to control...

He got his wish when the Avengers Starfox and Wasp were presented to him after one of the various fights that make up this two parter. By showing them their greatest fears, Gath was able to sufficiently weaken their will so he could bend them to his control. For Starfox, its the understandable fear to turn out like his brother Thanos, the genocidal despot... Understandable, because they share the same genes and upbringing...

But Wasp's secret anxiety is losing her humanity and shifting into a more wasplike form. Sounds horrible, lets hope its just an illusion. I mean, what are the odds of something crazy like that actually happening, right?

Ah well, at least it was still a buck fifty.

But the Wasp in Gath's reality was actually a control leeching vampire that drained her victims of the will to live, while Starfox used his great beauty to control anyone invulnerable to her teammate's pretty boy charms. Like Colossus. 

Still, it wasn't just the bad guys who use mind control. In the approach to the final assault on Gath, Captain America had Rachel Summers resort to some mental nudging to enter Kulan's keep.

"These are not the black leather clad SM slavegirls you are looking for"

Barely covered Star Wars pastiches aside, this was hardly the final time Claremont relied on mind control to help the story get across. After Captain America managed to bring in Rachel and the New Mutant Magma as prisoners, the endgame against Gath quickly unfolded.

The wizard was rendered powerless by Storm who managed to snatch away the source of his power: the magic necklace he carried round his neck. But the battle wasn't quite over yet. Remember how easily Gath managed to overpowered Selene? Almost like she wasn't quite herself, right?

Either Amara suddenly developed telekinesis or something is very, very wrong... 

Proving once again that appearances CAN be deceiving, it turns out that Selene had secretly taken Magma's place, giving the girl her appearance so she would be taken as Gath's slave. Now in possession of Kulan's necklace, Selene was ready to take over the world...

That is, if only Storm hadn't reached out to the dying techno organic New Mutant Warlock who offered a solution...

"There are worse fates"

Say, you don't think Storm could have meant being written by Brian Michael Bendis, do you?

Anyhoo... After changing into a semi-techno organic creature, she attacked Selene... infecting her with the techmode virus that turned her into a techno organic creature herself.

Some beautiful Claremont commentary accompany this rather... interesting... piece of art by John Romita junior. But there are some nits to be picked.

First, there's Warlock/Storm draining Selene's lifeforce, basically killing her. Whatever happened to Storm's sacred vow to never take a life? Second... How can Warlock even exist within the limited reality of Kulan Gath's Hyborean revertion master spell? Its already odd the Avengers member Vision is still a robot, how does an alien techno organic mutant shapeshifter fit into ancient times?

Still, ignoring all logic and established continuity for a second... lets see what happens next...  

With Strange freed from his previous existence as a statue in Kulan Gath's throne room, the master of the mystic arts quickly came up with a way to deal with this whole mess. A bit of a shame Strange's way of dealing with it had about as much emotional maturity to it as a toddler closing its eyes and wishing real hard all the bad things never happened.

"What you just experienced was a temporalspacial claudication..."

An awfully fancy term for: we prevented Kulan's ascension from ever happening.

Sounds fancy and plausible enough, that is if you ignore the simple fact they were only able to achieve this by adapting Kulan's masterspell... A spell Gath  invoked áfter his initial ascension... So if Gath never arose, how could the spell have been there to stop him?

And... erm... My head hurts.

Skipping all that pesky temporal logic just like Claremont did, Strange caused the timeline to skip a beat so the original closing scene from Uncanny X-men # 189 had a rather different outcome...

Doctor Strange managed to prevent Gath's return by making his necklace disappear.

Not by invoking the flames of the Faltine and burning Kulan's presence from the amulet... Not even calling in the ruby ringed might of Raggador to pound it to dust. Alas, not even a single 'the power of Vishanti compells thee!' with complimentary pea soup spitting.

Nope, Strange does this.

Saving all mankind by yanking a mutant massacring Nimrod sentinel to the present, all the way from that far flung future of... 2014.

Yeah. Guess that's why they call the doctor... Strange.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kulan Gath's total mind control part I: Looking For Collared Wenches (No Fatties)

The events of Uncanny X-men 190 191 have been referenced numerous times on this blog. But apart from peripheral mentions, the utter mind control craziness and borderline fetish goings on haven't been covered yet. So lets dig in.

First things first: the ancient wizard Kulan Gath has been able to revive himself thanks to events covered HERE and HERE. He used the blood of innocents to power a potent master spell that converted all of Manhattan into his personal playpen. Buildings, items and people were all transformed into a suitable ancient Hyborean counterpart, with no knowledge of their previous lives.

Storm was living the life of a pirate, who was chased by Callisto and her band of Morlocks who acted as Gath's mind controlled toadies. This scene on page 4 of # 190 shows the tendency of this twoparter to indulge in all the mind control, bondage and SM fetishes this side of Cimmeria.

The masterspell only reached as far as Manhattan. Once you crossed the barrier, you'd revert to your old self again. This happened during Storm and Callisto's fight. The two managed to get to dry land where Storm was contacted telepathically by one of Gath's ancient enemies: Selene, the Hellfire Club's Black Queen.  

Quickly filling them in about the situation, Selene asked Storm and Callisto's help in defeating Kulan Gath. The two didn't really trust Selene, but it wasn't as if there was any other real choice. They moved back to the island where Gath had been busy mind controlling people left and right.

"By the maker!"

The techno organic alien Warlock looked on in horror as Gath twisted and reshaped his fellow New Mutants into new shapes that reflected all the evil they feel within. Luckily, not everyone was as easily swayed by Gath's magic.

After taking over Manhattan, the demon sorceror sought a means of tracking all super powered beings so he could bring them under his control. Wary of technology, he didn't use Xavier's Cerebro mutant detection system but combined Charles Xavier and the mutant detecting Morlock Caliban into one being. The docile Caliban went along with it, but Xavier wasn't so easily dominated.

Oh, never mind...

On a sidenote: the grotesque Xavier/Caliban creature is possibly how the real Caliban might have turned out back in the Chris Claremont / John Byrne days. The duo had the idea that this barely human looking mutant called Caliban was able to sense other mutants but was shunned due to his horrifying mutation. He'd join the X-men as an organic Cerebro, living in a seperate wing of the mansion.

Anyways, back to the story at hand. Kulan's guards finally managed to bring in Selene, which meant it was high time for some old fashioned 'torture the chained up scantily clad prisoner wearing the hot black leather bikini.'

"There, much better. Wenches are better seen, but not heard." 

No mouth and 6 penis like tentacles?

Chris, Chris... How this ever got past the Comics Code Authority back in the day is a wonder indeed.

Next time: Kulan Gath's total mind control part II: Ye Olde Mind Control

Monday, July 9, 2012

Don't mind (control) me, I'm crazy!

The fourth issue of Excalibur starts out in the offices of influental London banker Courtney Ross. She is quietly lamenting her relationship with Captain Britain that went sour after Brian Braddock mysteriously disappeared. Thinking him dead, she moved on with her life, but when Brian returned to the superhero scene, she found herself to be a target yet again...

Meet the Crazy Gang, an Alice in Wonderland inspired band of villains that are as inept as they are colorful. It didn't take Courteney much effort at all to escape from their clutches. Fleeing from the bank, she thinks she's safe when a police car happens to pass by. 

Alas, the car is driven by the real villain of the piece, Arcade. Using Arcade for this story actually makes sense, not only is he a well established X-men villain but he's also part of Captain Britain's rogues' gallery. By kidnapping Courteney, Arcade hoped to lure Captain Britain to his Murderworld for a rematch. Unfortunately, his way of luring the good Captain makes little to no sense.

Rachel and Kitty were enjoying a day off, living out the tired cliche of what all young women love to do: go shopping. But, at the cash register they noticed their paper pounds didn't have the actual queen on 'em but the Crazy Gang's Red Queen.

Now, from this they derived it was Arcade who was up to no good. A bit of a stretch, considering both Rachel and Kitty had never fought the Crazy Gang, nor did they have any knowledge about the Crazy Gang's recent alliance with Arcade. But hey, whatever gets you the furthest in those 22 pages a month, eh?

Meanwhile in a subplot that has nothing to do with mind control, but is still an interesting side note... Doctor Moira MacTaggert is travelling with her bodyguard Callisto to meet with Excalibur. Moira's found some anomalies in one of the team members' DNA which she wants to sort out. Nothing ever came of this, and not just because Moira, Callisto and the entire train were teleported off the face of the Earth.

If Claremont had gotten his way, it would have been revealed that the anomalous DNA readings meant Rachel didn't have a biological father. She would have been a Christ like figure, her mother Jean impregnated by the Phoenix Force acting like the biblical Holy Spirit. Sounds interesting, but still uncomfortably close to religious blasphemy for the PC 80s.

Getting back to the story at hand, it didn't take Excalibur very long to trace Arcade, the Crazy Gang and Courtney to an old, abandoned amusement park. But the fight didn't go exactly as planned, mostly because Captain Britain hadn't really figured out how to be a team player at that point.

Using an advanced piece of technology of his own design, the idiot savant Crazy Gang member Tweedledope switched his mind with Captain Britain's, causing some confusion. Which only got worse when he used a similar device on most of the other Excalibur members.

After Nightcrawler and Meggan got themselves swapped with the Crazy Gang's Jester and Knave, only Phoenix and Shadowcat were left in their proper minds and Captain "Tweedledope" Britain was hard at work to remedy that.

Admittely, as impressive as this looks, Phoenix is actually more affected by the psychic summons she receives from her baby brother Nathan Summers, covered in THIS entry. But that didn't mean Tweedledope's switcheroo tech didn't do the trick.

Never one to miss out on a brutal slaughter with zero odds of surviving, Arcade had Courtney Ross dressed up as the actual Alice in Wonderland, and the mind controlled Rachel was ever ready to obey the Red Queen's command to decapitate her. 

Yup... that's Tweedledope in the body of Captain Britain, biting the hiney of the actual Captain. Sure, why not. But, enough levity... Take us home, Shadowcat!   

"Was afraid of this. She didn't body-switch with the Executioner, she was possessed by him! To exorcise his influence... I'll have to slip completely inside her body... and open my mind totally to Ray's telepathic power... Gambling that the image of herself she sees through my thoughts...Will be enough to break her free..."

Geez, and they still wonder why narrative thought bubbles are dead and gone. 
Still, Kitty saved Excalibur and Courtney and so far 4 of the published 5 issues of Excalibur relied heavily one one form of mind control or another. Wonder what issues 6 and 7 bring...

Oh. Right. 

Well, stick to what you know, I guess.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Excalinferno Part II: Go Go Goblin Princess!

It took the rest of Excalibur the better part of a day to reach New York, but it only took a few minutes for Meggan to lose control of her mind. Y'see, Meggan's a magical faerie creature capable of transforming herself to please whatever prevalent mood or mindset she finds herself in. She has no real control over this power, so guess what happens to her when she's hovering over a demon infested city of millions that reeks of evil? 

Yeah... You guessed it.

Quickly forgetting she ever was a good guy to start with, Meggan dumped Nightcrawler and sought out the leader of the demon horde N'astirh... who was ever so pleased with his new follower.

Just take a minute to really read the dialogue. It just oozes pure S&M roleplay. "This will hurt", the master warns his slave... "I don't mind", she answers to her master's pleasure. "Even better." Remember how Marvel used to market this as an all ages fun and games book? ... Sigh.

Thus was born... the Goblin Princess. Not quite as evil as the Jean Grey clone turned sour Madelyne Pryor, but still pretty nasty as she soon proved while tormenting her teammates.

Now, precious... I have you forever!"

The Goblin Princess is basically still Meggan, with all her insecurities about herself and her relationship with Captain Britain intact. So it makes sense she would focus her newfound might on him first, by mind controlling him.Shadowcat phases inside the movie theatre and quickly realises she might be in wayyy over her head.

Yup, that's Captain Britain as the Goblin Princess' champion, a warped amalgam of 80s movie icons  like Rambo (the guns & headband), Freddie Krueger (the fingerclaws) and an axe from any generic horror slasher, but lets say The Shining.

Yes, yes, we're still reading Excalibur: the all ages fun book. Try and explain that to your children when they come crawling into bed with you, crying about nightmares after reading this issue.
Also: nice slice of strawberry cheesecake there, Kitty...

Meanwhile, Nightcrawler found himself under attack by the weirdness of Inferno, which caused inanimate objects to come to life and attack the living. In this case, all the mannequins in a department store who attacked the living in a zombie like frenzy. Nightcrawler coulda sworn he saw Rachel in a wedding dress in the store window, but look who is assaulting him...

Using his teleportation powers, Nightcrawler freed the Phoenix-like mannequin from the horde of dolls, ready to unite the doll with the real Rachel. But Kurt'd better hurry up, because the demonic priest who was ready to marry Rachel with the demon Crotus is about ready to join them together in whatever passes for holy matrimony...

Still, Kurt wasn't the only member of Excalibur who was having troubling cutting through the Inferno madness. Luckily, Kitty found herself with a sword. Thanks to her close friendship with Limbo's former ruler Illyana Rasputin, Kitty manifested the Magik armour ánd the enchantment ending soulsword. One swipe of that blade can end any and all magic spells. Alas, sometimes the sword is nowhere near as quick as the spoken word...

Ahh, talk about an almost perfect case of mind control... The Goblin Princess suffers from an ever so convenient spell of weakness while transforming Kitty into an actual Shadowcat, giving her enough time to use her soulsword fascimile...

One slice of the sword reverted the Captain back to his old self, and another hurl of her blade did the same for Meggan...

With Meggan reverting back to her old self, all that's left is getting Rachel back from her marriage to the demon Crotus. Take it home, Nightcrawler...

Having Kurt throw the evil book on the equally evil fire somehow caused Meggan to revert back to her old self. With all of Excalibur free from mind control, issue # 7 had a happy ending. But, wait... weren't they supposed to rescue baby Nathan? Wasn't that why they travelled all the way from Great Britain to New York? 

Nope, unfortunately, Excalibur played no part in the final episode of Inferno. That was all up to the X-men and X-Factor. Fortunately, Claremont wrote this little scene in issue # 8, as a coda of sorts...

Yep, and that's all the influence Excalibur had on the Inferno... The only member who didn't end up mind controlled was Nightcrawler, who was already a demon to begin with. Great start for the new team, people!