Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Backdoor Brain Befuddlement aka Mind Control Madelyne Style

Sometimes, even Chris Claremont doesn't know he's writing mind controlled characters.

Case in point, January 1986's Uncanny X-men # 201 in which Claremont gave the team time to catch their breath and reflect.

In this prototypical classic 'downtime' issue, the X-men were reflecting the many changes thrust upon them after Uncanny # 200, which featured the departure of professor Xavier, the arrival of their former archenemy Magneto as the new headmaster and...

The birth of Cyclops and Madelyne's first child: Nathan Summers.

Which was a little weird for Rachel Summers, the redhead telepathic future daughter of Scott from an alternate timeline. Here we have a touching scene between Kitty and the Summers siblings.

"Wow That's beautiful!"

It's hard to imagine just how 'beautiful' the thoughtprocess of a newborn is, considering they can't even recognise their own fingers yet. 

Still, years later during his Excalibur run, Claremont remembered this psilink, established between Kitty, Rachel and young Nathan. At the start of the Inferno storyline, Nathan was kidnapped and Rachel flew to his rescue, dressing Kitty up as a baby in the process... 

"Long story. Later."

Getting back to the actual story... Uncanny X-men # 201 saw the X-men and their former leader Cyclops returning to the mansion after some adventures in Asgard and Paris, France. Their recent experiences had left Scott with the nagging notion that he should take over as teamleader. Storm had been a more than capable replacement after he left in the wake of Jean Grey's death... But Ororo had recently lost her powers.

Scott felt this no longer made her fit to lead, forcing him to step up, especially in light of the professor's absence and Magneto's presence. Madelyne didn't really agree.

"Or... are you afraid... they really can get along without you?"

... For someone who just gave birth, Maddie Pryor sure is in amazing shape. Bye bye excess baby weight, hello skin tight mumus. And, quite understandably, she wants Scott to leave the team and be a father to his son. After all, would you prefer a husband who abandons you on a regular basis to court death? With, from her point of view, a band of strangers no less?  

Their argument led to a fight Storm broke up by offering a resolution.

"One of us must lead. The best way to choose, I feel, is a duel..."

And what better place for a duel than the X-men's holographic Danger Room?

"Hadda happen."

In a truly classic 1980s scene, the X-men and the New Mutants (along with Magneto dressed in hot purple pink in the far right) huddle in the Danger Room's control perch to witness the confrontation that's about to take place. Doug 'Cypher' Ramsey programs an environment that compensates for Storm's lack of powers. And while the two X-men leaders throw down, Madelyne has a quiet moment with the baby...

"I want Scott to lose, so he'll be coming with us. Except losing will break his heart."

And ow dear... he *did* lose...

"I don't believe it. I'm dreaming! This isn't happening! I lost"

Scott doesn't know the half of it. He leaves the team to be with his wife and son, but before long he abandons them after learning his first love Jean Grey was still alive. Along with the former original X-men, Scott and Jean formed the new team X-Factor, took a hold of baby Nathan... While Madelyne was abandoned and, well... let's see how she fared?

After some decidely convoluted doings, Madelyne was almost killed by the Marauders... This assassination attempt only made sense, considering their leader Mr. Sinister was the one who created Maddie, a clone based on a genetic sample of Jean Grey.

When Jean returned, Madelyne had become superfluous to the evil genius' plans... Not in the least because she had already gave birth to a child that contained Mr. Sinister's ideally imagined bloodlines: Jean & Scott.

But poor Maddie would soon become essential to the schemes of Limbo demons S'ym and N'astirh, who ultimately transformed her into the Goblin Queen during the 1989 Summer crossover Inferno.

The X-men and X-Factor gathered to oppose her, but in X-Factor # 38, Louise Simonson had the Goblin Queen drop a little truth bomb...

"I didn't know that till later, that my nascent powers had awakened."

It may seem like a bit of a cheat of a convoluted cop out, but it actually makes sense. If you clone a telepathic telekinetic, it only makes sense you end up with a clone that has at least a similar genetic potential.

But Scott kept things in perspective.

"Stop! ENOUGH!"

Mind controlled or not, the X-men and X-Factor joined forces to stop the Limbo demon's invasion and Madelyne didn't survive the experience...

All's well that ends well, but with Maddy revealed as the reason Cyclops lost... one does wonder who would win: Cyclops or Storm?

Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mind Control: Quickie Cliffhanger style

Chris Claremont really knows his way around mind control.

Whether he uses it to help along running plotlines, set up shocking story twists or... in this tale from X-men Forever... spice up a cliffhanger. But before we get to the 'to be continued' moment, let's get started.

In the alternate reality of the X-men Forever series, the mutant population was plagued by a lethal disease called 'Burnout'. In essence, having mutant powers burns up the body, leading to premature deaths.

The older mutants like professor Xavier and Sabretooth were already feeling the effects. Charles los his ability to walk and Sabretooth's healing factor was starting to give out, which left him blind and without a hand. The feral mutant was staying with the X-men at the time (long story) when the mansion was invaded by the Morlocks who took him ánd Moira McTaggert prisoner.

Even in an alternate reality, their leader Masque was as sadistic as ever...

How unlike Masque to... lend a hand... to someone who helped kill many of his fellow Morlocks. After all, Sabretooth was a member of the Marauders during the Mutant Massacre. But as Sabretooth explains, it wasn't him.

Years ago, he had handed Mister Sinister a sample of his DNA and the evil mastermind used this to make as many Sabre-clones as needed. The real one had never actually been a Marauder. Besides, that's not why Masque dragged Sabes and Moira to the sewers.

"So save us, doctor... Or suffer."

Masque wants Moira to work on a Burnout cure, using Sabretooth's healing factor as a template. Which was exactly what the doctor was already doing... in the X-men's fully equipped, highly advanced laboratories, ya know, the one with the alien Shi'ar medical technologies a few centuries beyond human development...

And now she has to do the same job underground where the most advance piece of technology available is that lone little lightbulb dangling in the back. Smart move.

It was equally stupid to break into the X-men's home through the sub-basement and leave a trail of destruction that led the team right to Masque's doorstep. Shadowcat, doing her best Wolverine impression, ordered Masque to stand down and let everyone go free, but he's a sneaky one...

"Why won't they stop screaming?!"

Well, little 'Ro, if you think a single, mumbled 'aarrrgh' from Cyclops is a scream, I wonder what you're doing on the next page...

Oh my! Masque's touch apparently mind controlled both Gambit and Cyclops, turning them against the team, as the now monstrous men lunge for the young child. Will they catch her? Will Masque change her too? What a cliffhanger!

X-men Forever vol. 2 # 5 opens with a recap of the events I just recapped... While 'Ro is chased through the sewers by Gambit, Cyclops and some other Morlocks. That kills a few pages and just when they catch up with her...

"Show over, Masque! We... both back in control of our bodies."

... Well, that didn't take long. Usually this takes at least half a dozen issues and big speeches about mind, body and soul to get it all sorted out. To quickly dismiss the mind control angle after playing it up in the cliffhanger almost feels like cheating the readership... Then again, it ís a refreshing change of pace.

Either way, this brought Masque's mind (or body, come to think of it) control shenanigans to an end. He next showed up in Genosha, along with one of the many, many Storms that Claremont starred in this particular title.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Secretly Sinister Mind Control part II: Return Of The Back Issue Babe

Say what you want about Chris Claremont, and yours truly most definitely has... but the man is nothing if not persistent and consistent when it comes to his characters and storylines.

Case in point: Dr. Robyn Hannover, a minor supporting character Claremont introduced in 1989's Classic X-men # 41. She started out as the physician at the Nebraska orphanage where Scott Summers spent most of his childhood.

There, he shared a room with Nate, an odd boy who acted like he owned the place. And in a way he did, as Robyn learned when she angered the kid and he confronted her in his guise as Mr. Sinister... mind controlling her in the process as well...

That's how the two part back up story left her. She almost seemed destined to remain consigned to comics' limbo... until Chris dusted Robyn off, changed the color of her hair... and put her mind controlled butt to work in X-Men Forever vol. 2

"Very nicely done, doctor. I don't think I could refuse you myself!"

The one speaking directly into her mind was none other than Mister Sinister himself. Well, the way Chris Claremont had originally imaged the villain, that is. Instead of being a mid 19th century British geneticist who got his powers from Apocalypse, young Nate was actually a mutant with a lifespan of a 1000 years or so and an appropriately retarded ageing process...

So while he still looked like a 10 year old, he was already pushing 50, with all the emotional maturity and... adult... urges of that age. All things he simple wasn't able to express. That made him a little cranky, to say the least.

"I liked Scott better as an orphan. Which means, eventually, they'll all have to be dealt with."

Cheerful little fellow, isn't he? And yes, that decapitated robot corps in the back is Mr. Sinister. In an interview with Comixology.net, Claremont revealed the reasoning behind this interesting twist. 

"Of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who'd take him seriously in the criminal community? [...] So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mister Sinister, that was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister's rather - for want of a better word - childish or kid-like appearance. The costume... the look... the face... it's what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn't what you'd expect in a guy like that." 

Or, as Claremont rephrased it to work Sinister into his current storylines... 

By the time this scene from X-men Forever vol. 2 # 7 was published, the X-men were trying to cure a newly discovered, deadly disease they called burnout. In all fairness, it wasn't a disease in the traditional sense of the world. Despite all their great powers, mutants still had basically normal human bodies that were never designed to handle the strain this put on them. Mutants who used their powers often and at high intensity, ran the risk of, well, burning out.... literally.

In the world of X-men Forever, burnout was what actually killed Magneto (instead of burning up when Asteroid M fell to Earth). It was also the cause of Wolverine's failing healing factor (a plot point Claremont first brought up in 1990). Heck, the affliction even put professor Xavier back in a wheelchair.

Basically it struck older mutants first. Which had the middle aged evil kid genius decidedly worried...

And that brings us to just why Sinister ordered Robyn to Alaska to befriend Cyclops' family. At first, he was just scouting them out, but then he spotted Scott's young son Nate.

"Such things are trivial compared to the boy. The key to ending burnout is in him."

Just why Sinister thinks Nate Summers would be of any use to him isn't explained. But for the next several issues, we have Robyn befriending the Summers family, meeting the X-men and the Starjammers and generally charming everyone she comes across..

Heck, even when Sinister had the Marauders attack the Summers family and Robyn tried to kidnap Nate by taking off in a plane with him, she got away with it... by lying through her teeth. Also, as Phoenix discovered, she possessed an unusually impenetrable mind.

" s'okay, we all had a happy ending"


Alright, my mind's out of the gutter again.

After the three issue battle against the Marauders, Robyn hang around with the Summers in Alaska for a while, not raising any suspicions whatsoever. Although Scott did have a bit of an epiphany about her in the penultimate issue of the series... 

"I remember her... from the orphanage."

But by that time, there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. The X-men were involved in a complicated conflict involving an evil clone of Storm who ruled Wakanda, the equally evil Consortium and a whole slew of forgettable baddies. And while all of this was going down, Corsair finally took  Robyn on that flying trip across Alaska she'd wanted to hire him for in her first appearance. Nate happily tagged along...

And then it all went horribly wrong.

"So, no matter what, you can always be blind-sided?"

Using some previously unknown power, she knocks Corsair out and takes charge. Nate is understandably worried about his grandpa, but Robyn assures him she'll fly them to 'the best doctor' she has ever known...

"He wanted to meet you for a long time."

"He has such plans for you."

The Robyn Hanover arc ends with her flying off  into the sunset, ready to deliver Nate to Mister Sinister. Just what the villain had in mind with the child, we'll never know... X-men Forever was cancelled with this issue. A shame, it would have been intriguing to see Cyclops face off against his 'old friend' from the orphanage.

And dollars to donuts, Sinister would have had a mind controlled, empowered Nate ready to fight his dad and the X-men. Hey, this is still a Chris Claremont comic, after all!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Secretly Sinister Mind Control Part I: Lil' Orphan Nattie

We all know who Mr. Sinister really is, right?

The man who would be Sinister was a British geneticist called Nathaniel Essex. Born in the mid-1900s, he survives until the present day thanks to a chance encounter with Apocalypse who used stolen Celestial technologies to turn Nathan into an immortal (and decidedly immoral) avatar of En Sabah Nur. Well, forget all that because this entry still focuses on the alternate reality series X-men Forever. 

In other words: whatever happened after Chris Claremont left in 1991 doesn't count. Especially the things Chris did to Sinister before!

Here we have Cyclops apparently blasting Mr. Sinister to bits at the end of the Inferno crossover, thinking he had finally dealt with the manipulating mastermind behind the massive Morlock murdering mutant massacre and the Marauders. 

But who was Mr. Sinister, really? He always seemed a little goofy looking, what, with his chalk white skin and Eddie Munster style widow's peak... heck, in his first appearance back in Uncanny X-men # 221, artist Mark Silvestri even drew him with dark red lipstick and razor sharp, piranha like teeth. 

"You failed me, Marauders! And failure is something MR. SINISTER does not tolerate."

Not to mention the fact that a codename like 'Mister Sinister' sounded like something only a kid would come up with. But that was just what Claremont was heading for... Even several years before the villain would make his first appearance, a fact he revealed in an interview posted on Comixfan.com

"Dave Cockrum and I were over ideas and what we were coming towards was a mysterious young boy - apparently an 11-year-old - at the orphanage where Scott (Cyclops) was raised, who turned out to be the secret master of the place. In effect what we were setting up was a guy who was aging over a lifespan of roughly a thousand years. Even though he looked like an 11-year-old, he'd actually been alive since the mid-century at this point - he was actually about 50 [...] He had all the grown up urges." 

Initially, none of this proposed origin made it into Uncanny X-men or was even remotely hinted at. And, with Sinister apparently dying during the Summer of 1989, there didn't seem to be any need for an origin story. That is, until a few months later the back up strip in Classic X-men # 41 showed a young Scott Summers growing up at the Nebraska orphanage and sharing a room with a rather obnoxious and arrogant boy called Nathan...

"You got some mouth on you, buster."

The dark haired woman berating Nathan is doctor Robyn Hanover, the orphanage's newly appointed physician. She takes an immediate liking to Scott, who was still suffering from amnesia after his parents tossed him out of an airplane as a kid. Unaware of all this, Robyn tried to befriend him with a little chitchat...

Robyn takes an active interest in Scott's plight and even tries to get him adopted by local pilot Rick Bogart and his wife. Their first meeting at a local airshow goes off without a hitch and Scott expects to be leaving the orphanage any day now. When Nathan finds out about this, he isn't very pleased and shows doctor Hanover just who is boss...

"I was in my room... asleep... I must be dreaming!"

... Wait for it, wait for it!

"You've become quite a nuisance (...) The time has come for that to end."

And just how was 'Mr. Sinister' planning to ensure doctor Robyn would tow the proverbial line? 
Well, mind control of course! A few days after this fateful encounter, Robyn was approached by Scott who wanted to know if there was any news on his promised adoption. 

You can see Sinister's influence in more ways than one...

Yup... Sinister was in total control of Scott's fate by manipulating doctor Hanover and having his prospective adoptive parents suffer an unfortunate, 'accidental' plane crash. The story in Classic X-men # 41 and 42 ended with professor Xavier and Jean Grey arriving at the orphanage, after sensing his emerging mutant powers. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.

After Claremont's departure, his successors tried their best to incorporate the events of these two issues in their story. Fabian Nicieza had the X-men fight a bunch of cloned Marauders in a secret lab underneath the orphanage and the Claremont coined name 'Nathan' would eventually be used to reveal Sinister's full name Nathan Essex.

Yet, nothing of Chris' original origin for this illustrious baddie seemed to have survived... That is, until this scene from X-men Forever vol. 2 # 3. In which Corsair (Christopher Summers)'s breakfast with his grandson Nate is interruped by the arrival of an unexpected guest...

"Robyn Hannover. I was hoping to rent a plane."


More on Robyn, robbing minds and plans most sinister in part two of Secretly Sinister Mind Control: Return Of The Back Issue Babe. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Post 175: True Love, True Mind Control

It's post 175!

We're still hip deep in the continuity backwaters of that alternate reality series X-men Forever, so celebrating this milestone might not feel too legitimate. But today's entry covers X-men Forever Annual # 1, a comic in which Chris Claremont featured both mind control and a fan favorite forbidden couple: Jean Grey and Wolverine.

It all started with Nick Fury sending Logan and Jean on a covert mission to discover strange goings on at a tropical island SHIELD suspects is a hotbed for superhuman terrorism...

"We should be so lucky."

Ow boy, Jean... You weren't kidding, not even two pages into your tropical vacation... we get this.

"It's a mix of science and magic... One to subject our minds... the other, our souls!"

Yes, Wolverine and Phoenix got themselves captured by those ne'er-do-wells, the mystical ninjas of the Hand. So much for enjoying their unexpected but by no means unwanted romantic holiday. There had always been more than a little spark of affection between the two of them, but by the time Wolverine came around Jean was already faithful to Cyclops. Luckily for Logan, this being an alternate universe Chris Claremont was free to experiment and paired him off with Jeanie...

Unfortunately, they weren't quite themselves...

"As we succumb to the enchantment... there'll be some kind of physical metamorphosis... as the demon they unleash makes itself flesh."

Jean tried her very best to stave off this unfortunate transformation, but while her mutant powers protected her from the worst of the Hand's two pronged metaphysical, magical mind control act... 

...Wolverine wasn't quite so lucky. That means the minute an impromptu team of X-men burst in to save the couple, Logan wasn't exactly himself anymore...

If only someone told that to Shadowcat...


Well, Jean did... but who'd listen to her pleas not to free her, heck... someone might be controlling her mind, right? With Wolverine properly conditioned by the Hand to serve as their assassin, the X-men were in for one heck of a fight... Even though Psylocke tried her best to deal with the situation, 'Wolverine' still had quite a bit to say to her...

"Your vaunted power is nothing! I am the master assassin of the Hand...
And with these blades, I will claim your heart and soul!"

Yes, for some reason the Hand has been able to magically alter Wolverine's adamantium claws into  heart and soul sucking devices... Which sounds great, until you realise adamantium is a type of iron... And iron is historically known to break and destroy magical spells.

Ah well, continuity...

Lucky for all of us... Love burns through all bonds, especially if the lady formerly known as the Phoenix is the one doing the burning...


"When my blades cut you, you'll bleed... And then you'll scream!"

Not so much, Wolvie... Love cures all. Jean is able to restore Logan to normal and with the Hand defeated, the X-men enjoy a little R&R on a sunny holiday island. But Jean and Logan can do without those not quite welcomed guests...

"We'll make our own way, thanks. Tell the others not to worry."

And yes, there's no reason to worry indeed...

"THIS is my choice."

Like I said, no reason to worry at all.

...Well, unless your name is either Cyclops or Mariko Yashida, that is...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Maliciously Mind Controlled Mam'Selle Goes A'Maraudin'

Continuing our mind control heavy adventures in the alternate realm of X-men Forever, today's entry focuses on that time when Chris Claremont had the Marauders fight the Starjammers in Alaska.

Yeah. That actually happened. And guess what? It was a truly fun, original romp.

As part of an ongoing storyline we'll touch on at a later time, Mr. Sinister was after Cyclop's son Nate who in this reality never got infected by the techno virus, let alone got sent into the future to become Cable...

Nope, young Nathan was just a happy go lucky kid, living with his great grandparents in Alaska. As luck would have it, Nate's grandfather Corsair was also visiting his parents, along with his fellow Starjammers... So before long, it was cloned villain versus interstellar space pirate galore.

And whenever you face the Marauders, you're bound to run into their discorporeal, body jumpin' and mind controllin' leader Malice... But who's gonna tell Mam'Selle Hepzibah? Sure as heck not the cloned copy of Sabretooth who placed Malice's choker around Hepzibah's throat.

 "This is such a delicious body (...) Now let's both of us go play."

Malice proved her worth as the perfect mole, no one noticed the odd skull adorned collar around her neck, not even the X-men when they arrived to help out. Cyclops himself actually handed her a job that put Malice within arm's reach of the Marauders' goal...

"To Lockheed, something about this moment doesn't seem quite... right."

How very perceptive... Which explains this next scene.

"Lockheed was protecting me... from Hepzibah."

Unfortunately, the word of an 11 year old little girl and her mute pet dragon doesn't carry mucht weight, this isn't Game Of Thrones after all. No, it's sad to say Havok doesn't hold much stock at all in what 'Ro is yelling.

"Not anymore, pet. Time for you to die."

Fortunately, Havok's girlfriend Polaris has a far better view of the situation, not in the least because she herself was once mind controlled by Malice for an extended period of time. 

Remembering the atrocities she was forced to commit while under Malice's control, Lorna showed no mercy.

"Don't touch it, or she could grab control of you."

And that seemed to spell the end for Malice, if not for this rather unexpected move by Mystique, who had actually joined the X-men in those days so she could be closer to her children Nightcrawler and Rogue. But that didn't mean she'd become an actual good guy...

"This should be delightful fun to play with."

I bet it would, Mystie... But we'll probably never know what happened, because this thread shared the same fate as most of Claremont's X-men Forever storylines: the book was cancelled well before any of them could reach a satisfying conclusion. So, as far as the Malice medallion stuck in Mystique's boot is concerned... she's still down there.

Let's just hope Malice has no sense of smell.