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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reason #537 why Scott Summers Needs Therapy: Classic X-Men 41-42.

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - Suicide Complex

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - Sweet Science of Pugilism

"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)

Classic X-Men 41 - Nightmare

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.

Classic X-Men 41 - Aftermath

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:
Classic X-Men 41 - Sinister

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - 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.

Classic X-Men 41 - Sneakers

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - Flying

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.

Classic X-Men 41 - Nate is Creepy

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - Suicide

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:

Classic X-Men 41 - Emo

And has decided that if he were a better hero, Toby would still be alive.

Classic X-Men 41 - Aww

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.

Classic X-Men 42 - Smoke

Classic X-Men 42 - PTSD
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:

Classic X-Men 42 - Jealous Nate

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:

Classic X-Men 42 - Adoption

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)

Classic X-Men 42 - swanky nightgown

I'm kind of wondering what she was doing before sleeping, as that's one swanky nightgown in my opinion.

So what happens next?

Classic X-Men 42 - Zombie

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! 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.


  • At December 30, 2009 1:29 PM, Blogger Marshall Ryan Maresca said…

    I recall reading somewhere that, at the point he wrote this story, Claremont's idea for Mr. Sinister was that he actually was the kid Nate, whose power allowed him to appear as Mr. Sinister and alter reality somehow. (Thus the name and bizarre appearance that only a child would come up with, in theory.) Of course, then, he never really "grew up", so in a way Sinister was, like, the evil Peter Pan.

  • At December 30, 2009 3:42 PM, Blogger Jason said…

    Very fun and witty write-up of a strange and under-exposed story! Well done.

    If you are at all curious, I did a write-up of this story myself a couple years ago, which can be found here:

  • At December 30, 2009 5:21 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    MRM: Yeah, I'd heard that. It actually kind of makes this whole story WORSE with that in mind.

    Fortunately he just turned out to be a crazy eugenicist, and that's marginally better. Still creepy.

    Jason: I didn't know that! I look forward to reading it!

  • At December 30, 2009 5:32 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Considering all the horrible stuff that they've done to him, how does poor ol' Scott even muster the strength to get out of bed in the mornings?

  • At December 30, 2009 5:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    SallyP: Out of sheer force of will and unappreciated awesomeness, I'd reckon.

    I'm really looking forward to his origins issue coming out in January. I know there's always a shot they've actually taken his backstory and streamlined it/made it less fucked up. But I think the odds favor the other way around. And that will amuse/horrify me.

  • At December 31, 2009 2:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Considering all the psychics there are running around the Marvel universe, and the not-insignificant subset engaging in criminal/shady activities, outcomes like Dr. Hanover's have to be a serious outcome for law enforcement.

    There are the obvious Manchurian Candidate scenarios, and what Sinister did to poor Robyn, which is essentially murder without the hassle of a corpse. And of course, there are the more subtle variations, such as an elderly relative forced to change their will, a mentally disturbed neighbor 'persuaded' to pull the trigger on your nagging wife by the little voice in his head...

    So. How do you even begin to outline 'probable cause' for suspected telepathic crimes? People don't always make the decisions others think they would - or should - under a given set of circumstances. Simple human nature and free will. Even the most drastic changes in lifestyle and behavior can occur naturally, from a pillar of the community being revealed as a serial killer or becoming the local drunk after losing their business, to a hardened criminal turning their life around and becoming a renowned philanthropist.

    That doesn't even begin to cover the accusations of complicity, sabotage, incompetence, etc... faced by any telepaths working for law enforcement. After all, there are only so many people could verify their work.

    Is there some technical device actually available to local law enforcement similar to the Stargate verse's Zatarc - which would indicate that there something off about what is being said, and thus reasonable grounds for a deeper search? What about counter charges of harassment counter-charges of harassment? Hell, when you get down to it, how many are telepaths are there with the skill and delicacy to reverse such a thing? If a new personality is artificially created, is it murder to revert to the old personality if the new one wants to survive? Okay, that last one would probably be treated as a specially case of multiple personality, so we actually have precedent, yay.

    It seems like in most Marvel stories however that any psychic damage is dealt with by Good Samaritans or not at all. We have people like Xavier and Jean who fix a lot of the damage they actually spot (in theory) but that just seems far too ripe for abuse and the problems with lack of oversight or medical authority seems blatantly obvious...

  • At December 31, 2009 3:20 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    To be fair, THIS particular story predates Xavier's school, so not a lot was known about mutants, particularly psychics. So I'd doubt at this time, law enforcement had anything in place.

    Then again, the various Jack Winters (abusive father figure #2) stories might be helpful actually, because Xavier advises an FBI agent named Fred Duncan. It's at least implied that the two have a pre-existing relationship. Children of the Atom is probably the most recent take on that time period, but Duncan's in every Jack story I remember reading.

    So at least there is a precedent of law enforcement working with a respected telepath. (SHIELD's also used him a few times, as I recall.) I doubt there is enough powerful telepaths willing to work with them to make for much bureaucratic issue.

    I'd imagine general telepathic crime goes mostly un-prosecuted though. But then, if you consider the trial of Starfox in She-Hulk, which involved lust powers instead of telepathy as I recall, but they DID make a good attempt to set up a case. They might be able to use similar testimonial evidence.

    My guess is Xavier and other assisting telepaths would be similarly treated to expert medical witnesses. Reasonably probative, but ultimately a jury call as to their credibility.

    Treatment, I'd imagine, would be similar to cult deprogramming. Or treatment for stockholm syndrome. We're not completely without precedent for people who commit crimes while not in their right mind/influenced by others, so that may yet be applicable.

  • At January 01, 2010 2:47 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

    What I love about Scott is when he's not all emo (and sometimes even when he IS) he can be ONE SNEAKY BASTARD. That would be a good subject of a future post.

  • At January 01, 2010 3:43 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Scott has the miraculous ability to be emo AND awesome at the same time.

    And you're good at predicting future posts. :-P That's on my list.

  • At September 28, 2010 1:14 PM, Anonymous Citrate Sildenafil said…

    These classic stories are the best because I used to read them, because the new ones are so boring and the sense is completely another one.

  • At August 13, 2011 1:22 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Scott's backstory is so messed up, I love it!

    I actually like the idea that Sinister is the kid Nate and not the other way around. Way more messed up, but makes the fixation Nate has on Scott a little more palatable. Otherwise Sinister looks like a pedophile in the text.

    One of my favorite bits is the cameo and Jean generating the Phoenix effect. IIRC Claremont has at times gone to lengths to make it clear that the Phoenix is not an alien entity but is a part of her. I know it's all be retconned and rewritten, but I liked it.

    I honestly don't know what the Phoenix's current 'status' is.

  • At August 13, 2011 1:52 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) Inferno has some more scary Sinister-and-Scott flashbacks that are even worse. (I have some panels here:

    I think the current status is that the Phoenix is a separate entity but molded from Jean's personality or something. She also seems to be scarily fixated on Scott.

    He's got that effect on people. :-)

  • At November 05, 2011 10:13 AM, Anonymous Rayner said…

    Little doubt, the dude is completely just.
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  • At June 05, 2012 9:22 AM, Anonymous sports handicapping services said…

    I read and liked, a little weird but good


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