One of the most entertaining parts of the forty-some-odd years of X-Men comics is the propensity of writers to randomly add more fucked up things to poor Scott Summers's backstory.
I'm particularly fond of this back-up story from Classic X-Men 41-42, which features Scott, Mr. Sinister's orphanage, the only example of anything resembling a positive female mentor figure the poor kid's ever had, and some truly spectacular WTF-ery.
Chris Claremont, when he's on, is an INTERESTING fellow. (For the record, the main story was a reprinting of the Dark Phoenix Saga.)
Okay, so the story begins as all orphanage-centered backstory ought to: with a school yard fight. Nate, Scott's roommate (who is also simultaneously his headmaster, torturer, nightmare-figure, evil-scientist, and eventually his father-in-law) is being bullied. Scott is inexplicably red-haired in the fight scene that makes me think that it would be really fucking funny if they managed to loop around the family tree somehow to make him and Jean siblings. But I'm evil.
So anyway, Scott, as you'd expect, gets involved:
I chose this panel mostly for the line about the suicide complex. Oh, nameless bully, you have NO IDEA.
Anyway, Mr. Anderson, who is probably ALSO Sinister in disguise, sends the bully kid to the office and Scott, because he was unsurprisingly getting his ass kicked, to the new doctor.
Her name is Robyn Hanover and I think I love her, if only for her linguistic faculty:
"Sweet Science of Pugilism." Hee. Also, she calls Scott a Paladin, and while I think he veers a bit too close to Lawful Neutral sometimes for comfort, I'm still amused.
Also, her hair style reminds me of Jean a bit. I wouldn't put it past Sinister to have hired her specifically to engineer imprinting. (Though from profession and linguistic facility, I'm kind of surprised it didn't backfire and cause Scott to fixate on Hank.)
After that, Scott has a dream. It's...pretty fucked up. (Click to enlarge)
I would not want to live in that kid's head. However, there are some really interesting elements: in the way that Nate in trouble = a trap in which his parents are his primary tormenters. On some level he does seem to be aware of what's going on, which is VERY interesting.
So he wakes up, and I'm putting the next page up in entirety too because it amuses/horrifies me.
1) Nate seems to take a very 'hands-on' approach to comfort.
2) Nate does not like conveniently timed interlopers.
3) If Toby's "sittin' in a tree" comment is any indication, he thinks the relationship is as squitchy as I do.
4) Nate is not pleased by Toby.
Very not pleased:
Anyway, Dr. Hanover's curiosity is peaked so next we see her asking about Scott Summers. She gets told the whole plane-crash/brain damage story. Also, apparently there was exposure via landing in a prairie in a blizzard.
Dr. Hanover by the way gets the best line ever:
"Story is, he was almost kidnapped by space aliens."
"Of course. I should have guessed."
I love comic books.
After that, she has a creepy encounter with the chief administrator Pearson (Sinister). He disapproves of her shoes and the short length of her skirt. He's also creepy. She thinks so too, as she is not an idiot.
This panel is here just for reference.
So then she tries her hand at bonding with Scott who demonstrates his utterly surprising and out of character wariness and distrust of people in general...which lasts until Dr. Hanover reveals a heretofore unknown talent:
Gosh, you'd think she was chosen SPECIFICALLY to cater to poor Scott's personality and interests.
I love how Sinister makes for a perfect excuse for otherwise contrived coincidences. Of course he'd find a doctor who also was a pilot in order to provide Scott with something resembling a maternal influence!
Sadly, their bonding moment is interrupted. Toby (the bully from earlier) is on the roof. Scott's running up after him and Nate is as sympathetic as one can expect the alter-ego of a supervillain to be.
He does not seem to like Dr. Hanover much. And Dr. Hanover seems to be also aware of certain...awkwardness in the relationship.
I can't help but think Claremont is well aware of the creepiness of the relationship. I mean, a supervillain setting up an elaborate scenario to raise a powerful kid is pretty standard. But then disguising yourself as a ten year old boy in order to be his roommate?
That's a bit creepy.
Meanwhile, Scott's on his way to getting some new trauma:
Yeah. Bye Toby! This is what happens when you make jokes about Mr. Sinister's sick fixation on a twelve year old boy.
And now Scott is emo:
And has decided that if he were a better hero, Toby would still be alive.
Aw, Scott. Your issues are squishable. And if you can't tell, Dr. Hanover is kind of doomed.
In the next part of the story, Dr. Hanover decides to cheer Scott up by taking him to the local air force base to meet her friends Tricia and Rick and see all the cool planes. That goes really well until the sky divers start giving off smoke and sending the poor kid into a full on, three-page worth, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flashback.
Ouch. And hey, Alex mention!
I'm kind of impressed by his ability to shrink enough that an average sized woman can lift him up like that without a hint of a stagger.
I also like how no one's actually turning around to look at the screaming child. Nebraskans are cold, man.
I'd credit Xavier's psychiatric skill in that this boy will eventually get past the PTSD enough to become the X-Men's primary pilot. But I think that's more a function of repression rather than mental health.
And not shown, Rick-the-Air-Force guy finds one of Scott's screams about a roman candle intriguing.
I will show you more of Nate being creepily possessive/protective though, because I can:
So the Doc ends up taking the kid BACK to the base, where he gets to bond more with Rick and Tricia. They note his surprising expertise with pre-flight maneuvers and fucked up memory patterns (such as being able to talk about his dad flying Blackbirds and Alaska being cold in one moment and then not remembering anything pre-orphanage the next. Which might be more of a symptom of an evil telepathic roommate/headmaster/torturer/father-in-law than brain damage...)
Rick and Tricia are intrigued by the mystery and like the kid and ultimately:
They apply to adopt him!
Oh yeah, this isn't gonna go well.
I kind of dig Rick's glasses and cocky smirk though.
Anyway, the Bogarts (Rick and Tricia) go fly off somewhere, but not before inviting the kid to spend Christmas with them.
Meanwhile, someone decides that Dr. Hanover has overstepped her authority... (Click to see it bigger)
I'm kind of wondering what she was doing before sleeping, as that's one swanky nightgown in my opinion.
So what happens next?
That's...actually probably one of the most gruesome fates I've ever seen in a comic book in a long time. Not the Bogarts, mind, though I really like the way the scene is intercut with the orphanage scene, but Dr. Hanover?
She looks very presentable, doesn't she? Right down to the decorous skirt and high heels. And completely without personality. And for all we know, she's still there to this day.
On the plus side, this ends up being the triggering event for Scott to run away! So...um...things will eventually get better?
In the sense that living on the streets and then running into Jack Winters = "better"...
Um. Yeah. Anyway!
Here's the end for you, with a couple of cameos:
Wherein we learn:
1) Professor X is still an asshole who sees an abused kid and thinks "Eh, I'll collect him later," and
2) Um. Apparently the Phoenix cares very little for age of consent laws?
And Xavier's a dick.