Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nightcrawler's Nearly Non-Existent Mind Control

"Well, thát sure took him long enough..."

I know, I know... It's been a year to the day since this blog was last updated. It's not like yours truly had taken a break from comics blogging, though. I wrote several lengthy retrospectives for Marvel Comics of the 1980s, covering the X-Men's encounters with the Brood as well as the time the Fantastic Four added a fifth member who proved to be nuts. And let's not forget the work for the Marvel Appendix, the online take on the famous Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for which I provided a fair number of noteworthy profiles. You got your Agatha Harkness, you got your Arkon the Imperion, you got your Stu Pfaffenberger... It keeps a body busy.

And, truth be told, I'd have been happy to let the 22nd of November come and go... But thank heavens for Chris Claremont, who returned to Marvel and monthly comics earlier this year with Nightcrawler. It took him eight enjoyable, rather quiet issues...but with the anniversary of absentia coming up there was last Wednesday's Nightcrawler III#8, 22 pages with all the mind control anyone could ever want. Let's dig in...

So, Nightcrawler returned from the dead a year or so ago. In his new solo book he coped with being back from beyond, getting reacquainted with this brave new world. Kurt reconnected with the X-Men and even his lady love Amanda Sefton (who he inevitably lost, hey... it's comics!). Kurt even had to cope with the death of Wolverine. And now, he was thrust headlong into some headgames, a Chris Claremont mainstay!

 "His thoughts are scrambled! There's another presence in his mind!"

... Sigh. It takes one back. 

So, while training Xavier's latest batch of students in the Danger Room, Nightcrawler is suddenly contacted by Bloody Bess. And no, it *does* make sense you don't quite know who she is, but Bess used to be one of the Crimson Pirates, a band of mutants Claremont dreamed up when he took over the X-books back in 2000. Bloody Bess and her teammates were reintroduced by Chris on more than one occassion, as the man has made no secret of playing favorites. In earlier issues, the Crimson Pirates were tasked to capture a young girl with powerful psionic powers.

But things didn't go as planned...

"BIG mistake"

 The Pirates were after her. Luckily Kurt came to her aid, courtesy of the teleporting Bamfs.

"Killian is possessed by someone I know... But who?"

Kurt is forced to save Bess, but he can't help but notice something familiar about all this. Talk about a great tongue in cheek moment. It's almost 40 (!) years since Claremont started his professional writing career... So after four decades of subjecting his characters to an, admittedly, limited number of mind controlling characters their dominating touch can feel familiar. And this one really is familiar, beyond the shadow of a doubt, even.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Your problem, psi-thief, is that you stole Broadside's body, but not his smarts."

So, who was behind all this, then? Not allowing Nightcrawler time to figure it out, the mysterious entity took over Bess and got rid of her. It also spotted the arrival of the X-Men and focused its powers to deal with Marvel's merry mutants.

"Your defenses are breached! Those who might have resisted me are the first to fall!"

Ignoring the fact that in previous stories, Claremont went out of his way to make Psylocke immune to any and all outside tampering... All of the X-Men found themselves getting slowly corrupted, with the mystery menace taking special delight in turning Storm...

"Foolish Storm. I don't need your soul. Not yet. I have your body.
For the moment that will suffice."

So, a mind controlling villain with a clear and distinct obsession for Storm? Well, I guess we all know who's behind this particular caper, then...

"... Shadow King!"
Urgh... Not this guy again. Still, in a world without Charles Xavier, it makes sense for the King to try and make his presence known again. He even tried to take over Nightcrawler, just to complete his set of fallen heroes. Unfortunately for him, that doesn't quite work.

"I'll simply seize your consciousnes as I did theirs... and turn you into my slave!"

And while Kurt was able to resist the King's might because dying and returning to life somehow makes you immune to the malevolent entity's influence... the same could not be said for his fellow X-Men, as we'll find in the closing pages of Nightcrawler III#8.

Ow boy... Se plus se change, eh, Chris? Thanks for bringing me back to the fold. It might as well have been mind control!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post 100 of 2013 aka Meanwhile at Marvunapp...

Sooo... Yeah, hi again.

It may be the 100th new post of 2013, but if I can be frank with you (and no, I won't call you shirley)... This blog has been a little quiet these past few months. Not because yours truly is bored with either comics, Chris Claremont or Chris Claremont writing comics about mind control. Nope, quite the opposite: I've been joyfully suckered into writing for The Marvel Appendix.

I've long since admired the painstaking amount of detail the Masters of the Obscure put into profiling the somewhat lesser known characters of the Marvel Universe. And there are quite a few of those, after all they can't all be Wolverine, Iron Man or Spidey. In the past few months I've had the pleasure of profiling some of my personal relatively unknown characters...

For instance, there's Joe MacTaggert, the man who got controlled mind, body and soul by his own son Proteus. Gone but not forgotten Dire Wraith victim Joe Huntley, not to mention security guard and parttime Kulan Gath hostbody Gus Hovannes?

And who can forget how Selene turned Friedrich von Roehm into a werewolf decades before the Twilight Saga made it socially acceptable for rotund cosplayers to release their inner lycanthrope?

Those of you in the know most likely figured out that all these characters are original Chris Claremont creations, pulled right out of the Clarmindcontrol archives. Profiling them for has allowed me to tell more of their backstory, touching on their entire history and not merely focussing on what this blog specialises in: satirizing the mind control element.

But blood is thicker than water, so for the 100th Clarmindcontrol post of 2013, I figured why not have Chris Claremont mind control... Chris Claremont?

"Everyone fears insanity or senility...
The loss of intellect, of the very capacity of conscious thought."

Be sure to check out the full story in the Marvunapp profile I wrote on Chris Claremont in the 616 universe (better known as the mainstream Marvel U)... And for those of you who may think me lazy for not fully exploring on here what happened to Chris C back in Man-Thing I#11... I dare you to read the abbreviated version. Go ahead, I'll wait...


See, told you?

Anyway, long story short: the blog will continue, there are still plenty of stories to tell. Should be fun!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grimly Reaping Mind Control

Today's entry just might be Chris Claremont's earliest credit: August 1972's Avengers # 102.

Remember the days when covers were connected to the story and even contained dialogue? Not to mention when the Avengers were giant, floating heads looking shocked and judgemental? The 70s were a wild and crazy time for all of us.

Fair's fair: Chris Claremont doesn't actually write this issue, regular Avengers scribe Roy Thomas is responsible for working out what the Grim Reaper wants the Vision to do. But he does give credit to Claremont for giving him the idea to tell this particular tale... And of course, it involves mind control. 

It all starts with Vision being summoned by the Grim Reaper, because apparently back in the 70s, Avengers paid social calls to their villains in their secret headquarters without telling the others. The Vision wasn't feeling very sociable, though. He had slowly developed feelings for his teammate the Scarlet Witch but felt his android nature would make it impossible for him to court her. Somehow, the Reaper had clued in on this and hatched a plan. 

"Join me, and I can transfer your present brain into that body... and make it live again!"

This story continued the Grim Reaper's longtime obsession with his brother and the Avengers. In fact, Eric Williams only became the Reaper so he could avenge his brother's apparent demise at the hands of the team. Now, with the introduction of the Vision, whose android mind was based on a blueprint of Wonder Man's brainwaves, the Reaper's obsession took on a whole new level.

"Well, don't mull too long! Even my patience is not without limits."

And here I was thinking homicidal maniacs with a scythe for a right hand weren't known for their patience. Anyways, the notion of gaining a body that's not made of red plastic in order to court Wanda is a tempting one. Still, Vision's a hero...

"What prevents me from capturing you here and now... then seizing my former human shell?"

Isn't that interesting? The Vision wants to do the right thing... and if the right thing is putting a villain behind bars, only to do exactly what he wanted and desecrate the corpse of his brother anyway... Hey, then so be it. But the Reaper wasn't born yesterday...

"In short: it is booby-trapped to the hilt!
Touch me... And you remain an android forever."

If the Punisher is any indication, men who wear all black and a skull for a costume aren't known for their compassion. But at least Frank Castle is a competent tactician. The Reaper's one bargaining chip was his brother's body, which he threatens to destroy if Vision tries to stop him. It's like threatening to kill a hostage when that person is actually the one thing that prevents the police from shooting you.

All that seemed lost on Vision, who simply wanted to leave. The Reaper didn't stop him, but he would be a lousy host if he didn't give his house guest a parting gift. 

"It seems... harmless enough! I'll keep it... as a memento of sorts"

That's right, the Grim Reaper gave Vision a crossbones medallion that doubled as a communications device... before revealing his secret headquarters secretly belonged to someone else. Someone who probably won't notice the cryogenic unit with the semi-dead superhero just sitting there. 

Roy Thomas soon left the book and incoming writer Steve Englehart eventually resolved this story in Avengers # 106 - 108. In this threeparter, the Grim Reaper teamed up with the Space Phantom to defeat the Avengers. Oh, and the whole 'have my kinda-dead brother's body' proposal turned out to be a convoluted lie, a ploy by the Reaper to plant the idea of obtaining a real body in Vision's head. Because the actual body the villain wanted his 'brother' to inhabit was Captain America's.

Just cos. 

Long story short, Vision kindly turned down the invitation to take over his teammate's brain. The Avengers took care of the Reaper, the Space Phantom and their flunkies and in the end, the experience gave Vision the confidence to open up to the Scarlet Witch and show his feelings. And with that, the first seeds towards their inevitable wedding were sown...

Not bad for a single Claremont idea! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Doomed If One Can Divine The Celestial Mind Control Motif

Today's entry, much to my own surprise, still deals with Claremont's Fantastic Four...

More specifically... # 25, a double sized anniversary issue cover dated January 2000, that properly reintroduced Doctor Doom to the Marvel Universe after the Heroes Reborn experiment of the mid 90s.

Before his triumphant comeback, Doom had spent most of his time as caretaker of the Heroes Reborn Earth, a world plagued by numerous catastrophies and natural disasters. That is, until Doom got involved in an attempt to save the world from itself ánd the dreaming Celestial who seemed to be at the core of all the shenanigans too convoluted or uninteresting to cover here.

What you need to know: Doom had just shifted 'his' Earth from the Heroes Reborn pocket universe into his home dimension and he now stood ready to deal with the Dreaming Celestial, along with his trusty aide Lancer (Samantha Dunbar) and his four generals: Lady Dorma of Atlantis, the battlemage Shakti, the mind controlling Divinity and the equally mind and body controlling Technarx.

Doom and his generals encountered the Fantastic Four in the opening pages of # 25 and, after the obligatory fight scene, decided to pool their resources to deal with their common enemy: the Dreaming Celestial who was now actively trying to destroy both groups in order to achieve, erm... something. Trust me, it really doesn't matter in the end.

So, how did he plan to achieve this? Well, have you heard of a little thing called mind control?

"Too much talking. Better by far to let Divinity assimilate them.
That gains Doom all of their powers... but none of their attitude."

As soon as the champions of two worlds entered the Dreaming Celestial's sanctuary, the mind controlling Divinity was attacked and absorbed by an equally shadowy creature that effortlessly took control of Divinity's form, as Doom's ebon general started claiming victims left and right. The Invisible Woman was the first to fall, when she got coated with the dark gunk. And well... you can guess what happened next, right?

"There's something else... as though the very darkness itself was a living entity!"

Ow boy, you're not kidding... and Sue and Divinity were just the warm up act. Moments later, the tendrils growing behind them struck out. While Johnny tried to burn through them, he was struck by something rather familiar...

"No joy, Reed. Something just hit me! It's Sue's forcefield!"

Yup, a mind controlled Invisible Woman was now working for the Dreaming Celestial, using her powers to knock everyone into the Celestial creature so they would share her fate. Overcome by emotions, Mr. Fantastic tried to free his brother and law, only to be saved by Doom, who stunned him into temporary helplessness with a shock blast. Doom ordered Lancer to aid the Thing in buying him, Mr. Fantastic and young Valeria Richards (another long story) time to solve this mess, by going deeper inside the Celestial's tomb.

So, in case anyone was wondering what chance one rockmonster and a woman with laserfire fingertips have against a Celestial born living darkness ánd at least 6 of their mind controlled allies?

None whatsoever. And they knew it.

Still, as they fell, they provided Reed, Doom and Valeria with a pretty important clue as they proceeded to venture deeper into the labyrinthian Celestial slumberpit (on a sidenote: don't you just love words like that?). The tentacle thing is taking over the FF and Doom's allies for a very good reason.

"You realize, of course, what will happen when all twelve are transformed."

Not specifically, no. Because Claremont's hopelessly convoluted, overly wordy script fails to clearly explain the significance of a Celestial guard dog taking over the form of twelve, apparently random, mortals. All Reed and Doom need to know from reading a few of the tomb's glyphs: they can actually stop the Celestial if they work together to simultaneously activate a number of switches that unlock a pair of levers that will allow them to deal with the Celestial.

In order to buy her two dads (I know...) the time needed to either stretch or manipulate the levers with a forcefield, Valeria quietly sacrifices herself as well.

"The brat is no more. And I am one step closer to my freedom!"

After consuming the daughter of two men (again, don't worry about it...), the Celestial sent his creature to deal with Reed and Doom. It proved remarkably capable of claiming both in record speed.

"Be so easy to give in! But they fought to the last for me. Can I do less?"

Doom's goading inadvertently fired up Mr. Fantastic and the two men manage to simultaneously hit all the switches ánd activate the levers in the exact way the glyphs instructed them. This set in motion a termination mechanism built into the Dreaming Celestial's tomb.

Apparently, the D.C. (surely a 'subtle' reference to a fellow New York based comics company) tried to to circumvent this lethal safeguard. Its idea was to replacing the essence of the twelve living Celestial guardian statues with those of others, any others. However, since Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom had managed to escape capture, the cycle wasnt complete so hitting the kill switch restored all twelve Celestial statues as they lethally wounded their wayward brother by proxy.

It also released some rather familiar faces...

"It was... Awful! I was aware of everything I was doing... But I couldn't stop myself!"

However, Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom weren't quite so lucky. In its dying moments, the Dreaming Celestial planned to take both of them with him to the grave. In the end, only one would survive...

Well, that's not exactly true, as these posts point out... 

Spoiler alert: It's actually Reed inside Doom's armor. Fun ánd games!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Frightfully Fantastic Wizardry Of Mind Control

Today's entry hails from the latter days of Chris Claremont's run on Fantastic Four. By this time, in the aftermath of an interdimensional conflict that involved Doctor Doom, his Counter Earth armies and all the Celestials you could want, Mr. Fantastic was locked inside Doom's armor.

This fact wasn't made public, for fear of Doom's generals who might rebel and take over both Earths. To help sell his unexpected alliance with his most hated of foes, 'Doom' married the Invisible Woman who was believed to be widowed. This also meant Doom joined the Fantastic Four.

Having a feared and hated supervillain head a beloved team of heroes? Fun and games... 

For their first mission, this 'new' Fantastic Four went up against an equally new Frightful Four. The Wizard and his team had invaded the reservation of the Keewazi indians, looking for buried treasure. Fortunately for the Keewazi, their leader Wyatt Wingfoot used to be part of the FF. He managed to send out an SOS which brought the FF to Silver Rock Springs. 

So, just who is part of this new Frightful Four? Well, apart from mainstays Wizard and Trapster there's also Sharon Ventura, the former FF-member known as Ms. Marvel whose mental state was questionable after getting mutated by Dr. Doom during the DeFalco era... and the Punisher.

Now what would move Frank Castle to join up with bad guys, I mean, he...

"Ain't this that pipsqueak Punisher robot... what use ta work fer Galactus?!"

Ah, no worries Ben, if your hide's half as thick as that New York accent, you won't feel a thing. But as both the Torch and the Thing started in on their old foe, the Wizard played his ace.

"Behold fools, the final defeat of the Fantastic Four!"

Hmm, what could a villain do whose sole claim to fame is being the wingless Wizard (aren't we all?)
Ol' purple top will show ánd tell...

"That's what happens, dear boy, when the biological mechanisms that protect you from your own powers are... eliminated."

Is that clever or what? Turn the Torch vulnerable to flame, remove the Thing's mobility and making sure Sue would either get blinded when she turned invisible or suffocate when she tried to use her force fields. So, three down, one to go...

"Speaking of Reed Richards, where is he?"

So glad you asked...

"Susan Storm Richards has been proclaimed the Baroness von Doom!"

While the Wizard was momentarily startled by the arrival of 'Doctor Doom', his presence worked like a red rag on a bull... A bull called Sharon Ventura. She immediately jumped on the man who had ruined her life. The Wizard wasn't pleased with that...

"Are you demented, woman? You've ruined any chance of a peaceful resolution to this imbroglio. Now the Frightful Four have to battle Doctor Doom!"

And battle they did. Trapster tried to hit Doom with his pasteguns, but the Doctor redirected the sticky streams to the charging Sharon Ventura who found herself stuck. Doom was then jumped by the Punisher robot who actually seemed capable of doing some damage. Wizard, ever the valiant assailant, decided to attack Doom from the back with some of his electrified anti-grav discs.

Unfortunately for the Frightful Four, Doom was just stalling for time...

"Trust me, Johnny, our lives... and the Keewazi... depend on it!"

Doom managed to convince the Human Torch to conquer his fear of burning himself alive and flamed on. But, didn't the Wizard turn off his natural immunity to flame? Well, not exactly...

"As I suspected, the effect the Wizard created was illusory, not factual. He did not materially alter your abilities, but merely made you believe such was the case."

Ah, mind control through hypnosis and trickery. Claremont's decision to give the Wizard this ability makes a decent amount of sense. After all, before the advent of superheroes, Bentley Whitman used his near-superhuman genius levels to become a celebrity. It isn't unthinkable he relied on a bit of stage magic to help sell his performances.

But, speaking of mind control... Let's see how the threat of the Frightful Four was dealt with in the end... That is, after the Invisible Woman stuffed the Punisher's insides with Trapster's glue and Sharon Ventura had a change of heart...

"I am many things...
But I am not fool enough to want Doom as my enemy
I yield."

And with that, 'Doom' beat one of his oldest enemies without even lifting a finger. Talk about the power of intimidation...  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spotlight On That Soul Sucking Mind Controller... And Satana too!

The year is 1975, right when Chris Claremont was gearing up to start his 16 year run on (Uncanny) X-men. But before all that, there were stories like the one he told in Marvel Spotlight, featuring Daimon 'Son of Satan' Hellstrom and his sister, the succubus Satana.

He's the demonologist who exorcises Satan's lot, she is the wanton devilchild who consumes tsouls of the innocent... And Claremont makes three... Let's dig in!

Meet Gloria Hefford, a minor satanist with delusions of mystical grandeur. She wants to make a name for herself as a witch, by conjuring up a real demon from hell. Unfortunately, she may have bitten off a tad more than she could ever hope to proverbially chew.

"The spell's gone wrong! The demon's hurting me! But it's not supposed to hurt!"

Ow, don't worry Gloria, the pain won't last long. You see, even inside your pretty pentagram, with its protective little wards, you are not safe from a proper hell demon's power. 

"Do you hear, lord Satan... do you hear!?! Kthara, the mother of demons is free!"

Yup, poor ol' Gloria got herself mind controlled and bodyjacked by the very demon she tried to control. Now Kthara is running the show, using Gloria as her vessel. And what does a hell demon do best? Gather souls for the inferno below, of course...

"And as I took her soul, o man... So do I take yours."

Yeah, looks like Gloria's became a bit of a bother. That's why, two weeks later, Daimon Hellstrom, acclaimed demonologist and close Hefford family friend, boarded a plane bound for LA. He had received a letter from Gloria's father Lewis, who was worried about his daughter's well being. During the flight from St. Louis to Los Angeles, Daimon fell asleep and had a terrifying vision featuring his sister Satana.

So what is it a succubus does, except for the obvious observation the job sounds a lot like 'suck' and 'you'? Well, she pleases men right before reaping their very souls. In his dream, Daimon is witness to Satana claiming her latest victim...

"Doing? I am kissing you, o man... Satana is taking your soul!"

But Daimon's nightmare didn't end there... Satana focussed her attentions on him, changing Daimon into his Son of Satan attire before doing something which was pretty much unheard of close to 40 years ago, let alone in a Comics Code Authority approved book...

"All I want to do... is kiss you. Do not resist me, brother... you cannot..."

Ahhh. Siblings kissing. 

Not even Ultimates vol. 3 was quite this graphic about the physical relationship between Quicksilver and his sister Wanda... And that was written by Jeph Loeb! Still, Daimon was more concerned with the aftermath of the kiss: the loss of his soul. Satana claimed she'd already taken it, as she mockingly clasped the ethereal butterfly meant to represent a person's lifeforce. Luckily for Hellstrom, this was just a dream. 

Arriving in Los Angeles, Daimon was a little surprised to see who had come to pick him up: Gloria Hefford. But isn't she supposed to be...? Nah, no worries, she had a perfectly good explanation for her father's frantic writings... It's all Satana's fault!

"She has this weird power over men, like they were her slaves or something"

This is enough to convince Daimon his sister is the one behind Gloria's corruption, not to mention the murder spree that has plagued the city over the last fortnight. Tracking her to a local cemetary, the Son of Satan went forth to confront the succubus. Who denied all of Gloria's claims...

"You killed the man and you took his soul... And now you're going to pay!"

Usually, the brother and sister inheritors of hell were too evenly matched for one to overwhelm the other. But this night, much to his own amazement, Daimon was smarter, faster and stronger. He managed to overcome Satana's power before doing the unthinkable...

"I didn't want to kill her... but... I had... no choice.
It was as if someone... something... made me do it."

And that someone, or rather: thing, was Gloria Hefford.  As Hellstrom discovered after he was knocked out by her powers and he came to, bound to a sacrificial altar, ready to be slain as Gloria's twelfth victim.

Or, to be fair, it wasn't really Gloria anymore. Kthara was the one responsible for the letter that summoned Daimon and she used her powers to influence his dreams on the plane, adding more lies to the mix when she picked him up from the airport.

But let's have Kthara explain all that ánd the big plan behind this entire ruse herself...

"Twelve men have I slain, Lord Daimon... You are the last... With your death, the spell is complete... and no power on Earth can shatter it!"

Boy, 70s writers sure loved to emphasize their scripts with bold font, didn't they? Anyhoo, before Kthara could K'kill Daimon, the ritual was disrupted by Satanna who had mysteriously survived her brother's supposedly lethal hellfire onslaught. Kthara, proving her title as the mother of all demons, summoned a bunch to keep Satanna and Daimon occupied but the siblings of sin proved too strong and soon made their way to her anyway.

Daimon, in an attempt to earn his keep as an exorcist, tried to banish Kthara outright with a variation on the good ol' "The power of Christ compels you"-bit... But she wasn't having any of that...

"I can stop you, Kthara. I can... and I will. Basilisk, I summon thee..."

'Basilisk'? Surely, you don't mean...?

No, not Basil Elks but Basilik...

In fact, Basilisk is the name of a powerful demon that hell lord Mephisto grafted on to Satana's soul right after turning her into a succubus. Basilisk can be summoned to do whatever Satana needs him to do. But the use of the demon's services slowly corrupts her.

Considering it makes for a pretty lightshow, not the worst of trade-offs...

"The Basilisk is free, ravening out from Satana's soul to strike at Kthara and smash her down... to rend her body and ravage her soul... and drag her, screaming, back to hell."

So, the threat of Kthara ends to the apparent anything-but-deus ex machina that is the Basilisk. But as Daimon Hellstrom approaches his sister to congratulate her, she is in no mood.

"Cross my path again, brother, and I'll look on you and see a cringing, shivering, pitiful little mortal man... I'll look on you... and I will take... your... SOUL!!!"


Still more civil than most of my family reunions, though...