Resulting in the destruction of Cyclops’ character, the death of Madelyne Pryor and… a premature wedding?
“Well, X-Factor really came about in a kind of a strange fashion,” artist Jackson Guice recalled in Comics Interview #28. “It was an idea that Bob Layton and I pitched to (Editor-In-Chief) Jim Shooter (in 1985) about putting together a title, but neither one of us was really volunteering to work on it. It was just an idea that sparked in our heads.”
“We were staying at Jim’s place in New York one weekend and we were looking through the make-readies of that month’s issues from Marvel - Jim was away – and we were discussing the various titles and everything. Defenders and X-Men were two of the titles. We looked at them and got to talking about here were these great old X-Men characters, the original X-Men, and – not to belittle the work anyone was doing on Defenders – but we really felt like they should be in a title of their own. We both had an extreme fondness for the original X-Men.”
“And Jim came back and we said, “Jim, THIS is what you ought to do…” Telling the Editor-In-Chief what to do. “You take these original X-Men and you put them together in a new book; and you go back to the original premise of the first run of X-Men – which was when Professor X said that the purpose of the team and the school and everything was to seek out and find mutants and help them cope, to eliminate mutant threats, to basically be the bridge between mutantkind and humanity.” And we said, “These guys are like the oldest mutants walking around, as far as trained mutants, in the Marvel Universe. They’ve got the most experience. They’ve been dealing with this kind of thing for years in comparison to most of the other mutants. Take this experience and have ‘em put it to good use.””
“We weren’t really thinking about the fact that we were pitching this book for ourselves. We were just thinking, “Here’s an idea,” you know? “Do with it as you wish.” And Jim looked at us and said, “Well, when do you want to start?” And we sort of looked at each other and it was the first time it really dawned on us that, you know, we could do this. And the more we talked about it the more excited we got about it, and it went from there.”
“We talked to Mike Carlin (…) and he agreed to be editor for X-Factor. As a matter of fact he came up with the name. He went to lunch and came back and said, “We’ll call it X-Factor.””
The resurrection of Jean Grey
“When X-Factor was created, the original premise was that it would be the four surviving members of the original X-Men: Cyclops, Beast, Angel, and Iceman, plus a fifth female to be named later,” X-Men writer Chris Claremont recalled in Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty. “It was then proposed to Jim (Shooter) that if you are going to create the original four, bring Jean back from the dead. A way was given to him that plausibly explained her resurrection. Jim thought it would be a spectacular marketing ploy for the book, and decided that the benefit to the new series outweighed any potential damage done to the old series.”
The idea to resurrect Jean came from a disenchanted fan, Kurt Busiek, who had a letter printed in Uncanny X-Men #143 in 1981, which stated that following the Dark Phoenix story, he had decided to quit reading the X-Men.
“It spun off of an idea that Marvel Age Assistant Editor Kurt Busiek mentioned to me about two or three years ago,” Roger Stern told Marvel Age #33. “I later mentioned this to John Byrne and we kicked it around a few times. Then when we heard that Bob Layton was doing X-Factor, John told the idea to Bob and everything started to move.”
“Kurt Busiek suggested that the Phoenix force was a separate entity,” John Byrne revealed in Comics Creators On X-Men. “Kurt had this idea that it had actually duplicated Jean and left her in a pod on the bottom of Jamaica Bay. I loved that, and we ultimately did it in Avengers, which led into the first issue of X-Factor.”
“That was not in the original idea when Bob (Layton) and I presented the series,” Jackson Guice stated in Comics Interview #28. “That was brought to us and it was put in simply because it worked as such a good story.”
“We had had the fist five or six stories worked out already, verbally plotted, when John (Byrne) and Roger Stern approached Jim (Shooter) with this idea, and then we were called in because suddenly it was like if there was anyplace they were going to have this event it was gonna be in X-Factor. But other than it was presented to us and worked into the storyline, we really had no part of bringing that character back.”
“Originally Bob and I thought about doing that in the 10th or 12th issue,” Guice told Marvel Age #33. “But the decision soon evolved into opening the series with that bombshell.”
According to Back Issue #29, Bob Layton and Jackson Guice had intended for Dazzler to be the fifth X-Factor member.
Chris Claremont’s reaction
“Oh, God! Barry Windsor-Smith and I were coming into the office to plot X-Men #198 (in 1985),” Claremont recalled in Comics Creators On X-Men. “It was a Friday night and (editor) Ann (Nocenti) took us out to dinner and didn’t tell us about X-Factor until it was, like, 6:30-7:00 at night and the office switchboard was already closed. I wanted to call Shooter, but I couldn’t remember his direct line. Ann knew his number, but she wouldn’t tell me. She told me to just sit down, have another drink and relax. I mean, she played me beautifully. Since it was Friday, I had the whole weekend to go berserk.”
“I spent the weekend coming up with a whole new set of characters that they could use for X-Factor. I came in Monday morning and pitched the idea of using Jean’s sister Sara and making her a living Cerebro. She not only senses mutants, but has the power to work out what they’ll become. Shooter sat there and said, “That’s a great concept. I think it’s wonderful. If you want to go with it, go with it, but we’re bringing back Jean Grey.””
“The fact is, Ann did a smart thing. If I had actually gone in to see Shooter on Friday night, I would have quit. I was so pissed off. I couldn’t believe what they did to Cyclops (Scott Summers). He was supposed to be a hero and they had him walking out on his wife and newborn child and not even thinking twice about it.”
According to Back Issue #29, Chris Claremont and Jackson Guice made some uncredited changes to John Byrne’s Fantastic Four #286 in 1986, in which Jean Grey returned in a prelude to X-Factor. In Byrne’s original version, the Phoenix entity was malevolent and it was Jean’s humanity that triumphed. In the reworked story, Phoenix was essentially a benign entity that got tainted by Jean’s human fallibility.
The fate of Cyclops’ wife
“The original Madelyne (Pryor) storyline was that – at its simplest level – she was that one-in-a-million that just happened to look like Jean (Grey),” Claremont told Seriejournalen.dk. “And the relationship (between her and Scott Summers) was summed up by the moment (in Uncanny X-Men #174, 1983) when Scott says, “Are you Jean?” and she punches him! Because her whole desire was to be loved for herself – not to be loved as the evocation of her boyfriend’s dead sweetheart. (…) But it all got invalidated by the resurrection of Jean Grey in X-Factor #1 (1986).”
“The original plotline was that Scott marries Madelyne - they have their child, they go off to Alaska. He goes to work for his grandparents. He retires from the X-Men. He’s a reserve member. He’s available for emergencies. He comes back on special occasions – for special fights, but he has a life. He has grown up. (…) Scott was going to move on. Jean was dead, “Get on with your life.” And it was close to being a happy ending. They lived happily ever after – and it was to create the impression that maybe if you come back in ten years other X-Men would have grown up, too. Would Kitty (Pryde) stay with the team forever? Would Nightcrawler? Would any of them? Because that way we could evolve them into new directions - we could bring in new characters. There would be an ongoing sense of renewal and growth and change – in a positive sense.”
“Then, unfortunately, Jean was resurrected, Scott dumps his wife and kid and goes back to the old girlfriend, so it not only destroys Scott’s character as a hero and as a decent human being – it creates an untenable structural situation: What do we do with Madelyne and the kid?”
“So ultimately the resolution was: Turn her into the Goblin Queen and kill her off.”
This happened in the 1989 Inferno crossover, which was originally titled Hell On Earth, in X-Factor #36-38 and Uncanny X-Men #240-242.
Years later, in 2005, Claremont got the opportunity to redeem Scott’s character a little in X-Men: The End - Book Two: Heroes & Martyrs #4 by having him confess to feeling guilty about how he treated Madelyne Pryor.
Apocalypse for Doppelganger, the Owl and Madrox
In Marvel Age #39, upcoming storylines for X-Factor were announced: ”A coming of age story is in the works for Iceman that will explore his relationship with Darkstar. His Russian teammate from his days with the now defunct Champions will involve him in an adventure that will introduce a villain who just may become X-Factor’s major adversary. His name is Doppelganger and he is incredibly evil!”
“We will also be introduced to the new Owl. This high flying bad guy will be more evil than the original Owl, and will also have a new look.”
The new Owl was supposed to be introduced in X-Factor #6 in 1986, about which Marvel Age #39 said: “Who is the mastermind behind the Evil Mutants? Find out the shocking answer as he tries to x-out X-Factor! “The Magic Machine” is written by Bob Layton, pencilled by Jackson Guice and inked by Joe Rubinstein.”
But when X-Factor #6 appeared, it was written by Louise Simonson and featured the debut of Apocalypse instead of the new Owl. “Layton decided to leave the book and I honestly do not know why,” Louise Simonson told Comics Creators On X-Men. “I don’t know if it was his, Shooter’s, or (new editor Bob) Harras’ choice. Bob (Harras) asked me to take over the book and I think it was partly because (…) Chris (Claremont) was my friend. I think someone finally realised that splitting up the X-Men and fostering a hostile relationship between the creators was a really bad idea. I believe I was brought on, at least in part, because everyone knew that I could and WOULD work with Chris.”
“When (X-Factor) first came out I couldn’t read it, I couldn’t stand it,” Claremont told Comics Interview #56. “It was like, “Ooo, who are these people masquerading as the original X-Men?””
“It wasn’t until Louise and Walter Simonson were on the book that we actually managed to massage the characters back to the way they should have been,” Claremont added in Comics Creators On X-Men.
“My feeling was that the Owl didn’t have the stature to be a major foe for a major team,” Louise Simonson reasoned in Comics Creators On X-Men. “There was a set-up panel at the end of X-Factor #5 (1986) and we needed to show a villain in it. I tried to think really fast – what kind of character would be an appropriate foe? (…) I wanted a character who would try to force mutants and humanity to the next level. I thought Apocalypse was a good name for a character. Jackson Guice designed him and he did a really good job. It was just a throwaway thing for him because I think he had also been planning on getting off the book, if I remember right.”
“The only thing I even vaguely remember,” Guice revealed in Back Issue #29, “are the bare bones of a story Bob (Layton) and I intended to do involving (Jamie) Madrox (the Multiple Man) being hunted by his own multiple clones on some remote island off the coast of Ireland – the gist of the thing being all that splitting had ultimately fractured Jamie’s personality to the point he could no longer exert control over his duplicates and now they were running amok killing each other – each convinced he was the original Madrox.”
The twelve strong mutants
Following his defeat in X-Men #100 in 1976, it was revealed in Hulk Annual #7, 1978, that the mutant-hating Steven Lang had uploaded his consciousness into the mutant-hunting Sentinel robot, Master Mold. Lang’s braindead body ended up in a nursing home, as revealed in Uncanny X-Men #291 in 1992, and was later absorbed by the techno-organic alien race, the Phalanx.
In X-Factor #14 from 1987, written by Louise Simonson, it was revealed that Lang had discovered the twelve mutants who would lead – around whom others would gather. Also referred to as the Strong, the Twelve were shown to include Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, Franklin Richards and Apocalypse, and Master Mold intended to destroy them.
Cyclops managed to defeat the Master Mold Sentinel, but it reappeared in Power Pack #36 written by Jon Bogdanove in 1988, where the Twelve were shown to also include Professor X, Psylocke, Cannonball and Danielle Moonstar.
In Uncanny X-Men #246 in 1989, written by Chris Claremont, the Master Mold Sentinel merged with Nimrod, a mutant-killer robot from the future of Rachel Summers. Once again, The Twelve were mentioned before the Nimrod/Master Mold amalgam was defeated. In Machine Man & Bastion Annual 1998, written by Mike Higgins and Karl Bollers, it was revealed that it went through the magical Siege Perilous and became the mutant-hating Bastion, who first appeared in X-Men vol.2 #52 in 1996, written by Mark Waid. However, neither Bastion nor the Phalanx-version of Steven Lang ever made any mention of the Twelve.
In X-Factor #68, 1991, written by Chris Claremont, Apocalypse mentioned “the fabled Twelve,” a dozen key mutants, who would prove instrumental to the survival of mutants, and in Uncanny X-Men #-1 in 1997, writer Scott Lobdell revealed how the Master Mold came to know about the Twelve, whom a character from the future was disappointed in after having waited so long for them.
Finally, in 2000, artist Alan Davis plotted a crossover between the X-Men books entitled Apocalypse: The Twelve (Uncanny X-Men #376-377 and X-Men vol.2 #96-97) in which Apocalypse captured twelve powerful alpha-level mutants in order to recreate the world in his image by using their combined power. Although that was supposed to wrap up the Twelve subplot, Apocalypse’s Twelve weren’t all strong leaders others would gather around. Leaving out himself and Franklin Richards, Apocalypse captured Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm, as well as Professor X, Cable, Magneto, Polaris, Iceman, Sunfire, Bishop, Mikhail Rasputin and the Living Monolith.
The secret of Mr. Sinister
In Classic X-Men #41-42 from 1989, written by Chris Claremont, Scott Summers’ childhood friend, Nathan, seemed to be more than just another boy at the orphanage where Scott grew up. Orphanage-employee Dr. Robyn Hanover suspected that something was wrong with Nathan and her suspicions got her brainwashed by Mr. Sinister.
“Sinister was Scott’s boyhood friend (Nathan) in the orphanage,” Claremont revealed to Seriejournalen.dk. “He’s an eight-year old kid – he’s always been an eight-year old kid. He ages one year for every 10 of everybody else. So, he’s a 50-year old guy in a 10-year old’s body – and boy, is he pissed! That’s why he works with clones. It’s the only way he can deal with the adult world – because he is not gonna be an adult for another 50 years, at the earliest! And that’s why he takes a long view of things because he’s going to be around for a 1000 years – give or take a few – at least!”
Louise Simonson maintained Claremont’s idea in X-Factor #35 from 1988, where Scott Summers visited the orphanage, discovered Mr. Sinister’s laboratory underneath it and recalled his fights with Nathan, as well as in X-Factor #37 in 1989, where poor Madelyne Pryor, who ended up being nothing but a clone of Jean Grey created by Mr. Sinister, insisted on calling her and Scott’s son Nathan. (Scott called the boy Christopher.) In X-Factor #39 from 1989, Scott’s fight with Mr. Sinister subconsciously reminded him about his fights with Nathan.
Subsequent writers either hadn’t picked up on the hints about Mr. Sinister being Nathan, or simply chose to ignore them. In the 1996 Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini-series, writer Peter Milligan instead had Mr. Sinister be a mad scientist from the 1800s who had powers bestowed upon him by Apocalypse. When Chris Claremont returned to Marvel, he merged his and Milligan’s ideas in X-Men: The End - Book Two: Heroes & Martyrs #5 in 2005, by establishing that Mr. Sinister wasn’t immortal, but had lived through the centuries by cloning himself and transferring his consciousness from clone to clone. Instead of being a 50-year old in a 10-year old body, Nathan was instead suggested as being a clone of Mr. Sinister in the process of growing up, while Mr. Sinister stayed in the laboratory underneath the orphanage.
The postponed wedding
According to an article in Marvel Vision, Scott Summers and Jean Grey were supposed to get married in X-Factor #66 in 1991, and artist Whilce Portacio drew a cover depicting the event, including Apocalypse crashing the wedding and using X-Factor’s sentient ship against them. However, Marvel’s new Editor-In Chief, Tom DeFalco, felt that a wedding of that magnitude was an event better suited for the pages of Uncanny X-Men.
While the wedding got postponed, the attack by Apocalypse did not. Before Ship got destroyed, it managed to suggest that Archangel’s girlfriend, police detective Charlotte Jones, was actually a mutant by letting her pass through a barrier that kept normal humans from entering the ship. However, this surprising development in X-Factor #66, scripted by Chris Claremont, was never followed up on, although Claremont used Charlotte Jones frequently upon returning to Marvel years later.
The wedding between Scott and Jean ended up taking place in X-Men vol.2 #30 in 1994, and was written by Fabian Nicieza. “Having just gotten married myself,” editor Bob Harras told Marvel Age #133, “I’d been trying to get them married for a couple of years, and after that, Tom (DeFalco) relented.”
“The current issue of the X-Men is where Scott and Jean get married,” Claremont commented in an Internet interview. “I gotta tell you, if I had stayed on the book – not a chance. Because everyone would be sitting around waiting for it. Everyone was waiting around for Wolverine to marry Mariko, but it’s like, “No.” You screw it up, but you screw it up in a way that is consistent to the character and leaves the reader going, “What happens next? Where is this going to go?””
Back to Cyclops being a cad
“Jean is marrying Scott, so what’s Scott’s track record to date?” Claremont asked in the Internet interview. “Well, he had a wife. He got married in the mansion, everybody was there, he said, “Till death do you part,” they had a kid, and he walked out on them without a second thought and went to X-Factor. And then for various stupid – and I confess, I had my part in this as well as anyone else – plot reasons didn’t deal with it for a long time. The reason he didn’t deal with it was because he didn’t have a clue what to do with it. I mean, the guy was a cad and a bounder, no ifs, no ands, no buts.”
“In one fell swoop, he was destroyed as a character, as a heroic. He made a commitment to people and then walked out on them. And for various reasons, not Weezie (Louise Simonson), not me, we never dealt with that. We seem to take what seemed at the time to be the only sensible way out, which was we made Madelyne into the bad – you know, we set up a situation where rather than have Scott face the consequences of his actions, we’d just sort of like kill them all. And everyone forgave Scott, because Madelyne was a bitch anyway. And then they gave the kid away. “Don’t deal with the fact that you have a child, Scott, we’ll just send him away to the future” and - shit happens.”
“All of this should be an element in the mix. Mistakes or otherwise, this is Scott’s character, this is Jean’s character. (…) There must be a moment where the two of them sit down and address this. “Jean, marry me.” “Why?” “I love you.” “You loved Madelyne.” Pause. “Yeah, well…” “You walked out on her, Scott. You going to walk out on me? Suppose we discover in a year that Madelyne isn’t dead? Suppose I’m Madelyne. Suppose I’m Phoenix. How are you going to deal with that? How am I to trust you? You made a commitment. You did not fulfil it. You abandoned a child.””
“The onus is not on Jean to prove herself to Scott. She was dead. She got better. He made a commitment to someone. He had to prove that he could make a commitment to her. You can’t just say, “None of this existed, none of this happened, it all goes away.” You have to think, “How does this character deal with it? How does the story deal with it?” Because, by answering those questions, you might find the story going off in a totally different direction that may bring vitality and richness of concept that you never even dreamed of was coming in the door.”
?: Chris Claremont, Internet interview, 1994
Timothy Callahan: The Owl That Could Have Been, Back Issue #29, August 2008
William Christensen and Mark Seifert: From Gofer To Comic Great, Wizard: X-Men Turn Thirty, August 1993
Tom DeFalco: Comics Creators On X-Men, April 2006
Allan Harvey: The Birth Of X-Factor, Back Issue #29, August 2008
Marvel Age #39, June 1986
Patrick Daniel O’Neill: Chris Claremont, Comics Interview #56, 1988
Tom Russo: Dearly Beloved…, Marvel Age #133, February 1994
Peter Sanderson: High Caliber, Amazing Heroes #134, February 1988
Tue Sørensen and Ulrik Kristiansen: Chris Claremont Interview, Seriejournalen.dk, 1995
Dwight Jon Zimmerman: X-Factor, Comics Interview #28, 1985
Dwight Jon Zimmerman: X-Factor, Marvel Age #33, December 1985