Edward Clariss (The Rival)

therivalfilmDC TV’s return is just behind the corner, and a last trailer for The Flash confirmed the identity of the evil speedster Barry will find in the new reality he created with his time travel. In the new season’s premiere, Flashpoint, Barry finds out that there’s a new hero in Central CityKid Flash, and where’s a Flash there’s obviously a Reverse-Flash, in this case there’s The Rival, portrayed by Todd Lasance. We don’t know much about this new evil speedster, apart from the fact that the Flash from two realities will join forces to defeat him. Curiously enough, last season’s Zoom borrowed many elements from the comics version of The Rival, both in his look and in his storyline (just like Professor Zoom had borrowed many elements from the comics’ Zoom), so it’ll be fun to see what the actual Rival will be like…even if there’s the possibility that he’ll be a freak-of-the-week kind of villain. Being it a way or another, let’s take a look at the original stuff.

Not much is known about Edward Clariss‘ early life: born in Keystone City, he grew up to become a brilliant and ambitious man, a gifted scientist accomplished in both physics and chemistry. He became a renowned professor at Midwestern University, reaching a point in his life where he belived he had everything he ever wanted…but of course something happened that made him rethink what he had just achieved. A new student entered university in his department, Jay Garrick, a brilliant young man who was about to make the discovery of the century. While experimenting on hard water, Garrick accidentally discovered a formula that granted him an incredible speed, an amazing power that made him a football star, first, and the superhero known as The Flash, later. Clariss was one of the few people in Midwestern University who knew who was the man donning the winged helmet, since he knew therivalcomics1everything about the experiment. He became obsessed with recreating Garrick’s formula, but there was one last element he missed to complete his work…an element that Joan Williams, Jay’s girlfriend, unwilling gave to him, as he overheard a conversation between her and a friend, about a student Jay had helped by replicating his formula and giving him his powers as a result. Finally, Clariss had everything he needed to replicate the super speed formula, and recreated it, naming it Velocity 9. Sure that he would have at least won a Nobel Prize, Clariss presented his “discovery” to the scientific community…but he was mocked and humiliated by fellow scientists who didn’t believe his claims. Enraged, he decided he would have proved them wrong. In any possible way.

Embittered towards his peers, and even towards Jay Garrick since he was enjoying all the success that had been denied to him, Edward Clariss decided to use Velocity 9 to become a better version of The Flash…but also his opposite, his reverse (thus becoming the first of a long series of Reverse-Flashes). He tailored a costume nearly identical to The Flash’s one, only much darker in tone and with an upwards bolt of lightning on his chest; he donned a black mask that covered his entire face, and renamed himself The Rival. He started to run with one single purpose: to prove to the world that he was much better than the original Flash. The Rival threw down the gauntlet, and The Flash accepted the challenge…especially because the envious and furious Clariss had started a murdering spree using his superspeed, and needed to be stopped. At first, The Rival got the upper hand in the duel, and his speed proved to be able to match The Flash’s one, and even to surpass it…but there was something about Velocity 9 that Clariss himself didn’t know: as soon as his body burnt the formula in his system, he lost his powers, and Garrick easily arrested him. While in prison, Clariss had time to perfect Velocity 9 to make it last longer, and as soon as he was able to escape he therivalcomics2resumed his crusade against Garrick, challenging him over and over again. Eventually, during a battle, The Rival surpassed The Flash, but for doing so he reached the speed of light…and ended up losing himself in the Speed Force, disappearing. The criminal spent fifty years in the speedsters’ limbo, until the demonic mastermind Johnny Sorrow offered him a way out, in exchange of two things: to be a part of his Injustice Society, and to bring him Jay Garrick’s head on a plate. Clariss didn’t ask for anything else, and accepted Sorrow’s offer: the world would have soon remembered the dread of the original Reverse-Flash.

Edward Clariss is a brilliant and gifted man, but he’s also extremely ambitious and self-important; his envy towards Jay Garrick brought him to embrace a criminal life, and the decades spent in the Speed Force led him to madness, and he is now a dangerous psychopath. As The Rival, he has access to the Speed Force (at first temporarily due to Velocity 9, after his imprisonment he became a being of pure speed energy), which grants him the usual super speed, allowing him to run at incredible speeds, to phase through solid matter, to generate vortexes, to heal extremely fast; as a Speed Force ghost, he’s also able to possess other people as if he was an actual spirit. Deranged, vengeful and envious, The Rival is the sworn enemy of Jay Garrick, a dark and twisted version of The Flash who will murder an enire state just to gain the attention of his nemesis.

Norrin Radd (Silver Surfer)

silversurferfilmWaiting for new tv episodes to come (and from next week there will be plenty), let’s spend some more time on Brick89‘s request, this time with another particularly popular superhero: Silver Surfer. He appeared as a secondary antagonist in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, portrayed by Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne; debutting as the herald of Galactus, he calls for his master to feed on Earth, but he’s attacked and stripped of his powers by Doctor Doom. He teams up with the Fantastic Four against Doom, and eventually finds in humanity a cause worth fighting for: he rebels against Galactus, apparently sacrificing his life to destroy him, but he survives the experience, and comes back surfing in open space towards a spin-off that never happened. This version of the Surfer wasn’t exactly the best one we could hope for, but he wasn’t either that bad (apart from the absurd movie ending). His origin story, as he tells it to the Invisible Woman, is pretty much the same in the comics: let’s see together.

Son of Jartran and Elmar RaddNorrin Radd was born on Zenn-La, an extremely advanced planet in the star system of Deneb. On Zenn-La, crime, vice, poverty, hunger, illness and conflict had been eradicated, and all the population enjoyed an era of scientific and philosophical progress. Pushed by his father, Norrin became one of the finest intellectuals on the planet, refusing the spreading hedonism of the new generations. Both his parents committed suicide (Elmar because she felt unfit for her society, Jartran for shame after being accused of idea theft), and this only pushed Norrin Radd to seek knowledge even more, alienating himself from his peers, except from his beloved Shalla-Bal. His lover didn’t fully understand Norrin’s restlessness, as she perfectly fit into Zenn-La’s new society and believed that she and her beloved could have everything they wanted and needed, but the man sought a silversurfercomics1knowledge long lost on his planet, and studied his ancestors, explorers and warriors, feeling more akin to them than to his contemporaries. Then, one day, Norrin Radd’s life changed forever: a gargantuan space ship entered Zenn’La’s orbit, and the long-neglected defense system didn’t do anything to stop the invader. Among the population, Norrin Radd was the only one who knew something of the ancient space-traveling technology, and it took a little effort for him to convince the Council of Scientists to allow him to use a spaceship to reach the invaders and negotiate with them. Norrin found out that the invader was but one, and wasn’t interested in any kind of occupation or conquest: it was Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds, and was ready to consume Zenn-La. The scientist begged the cosmic being to spare his planet, but the Devourer was starving, and wasn’t very disposed to be merciful. Then, Radd had an idea, understanding that Galactus didn’t want to consume inhabited worlds if it wasn’t necessary: he offered himself as the Devourer’s herald, exploring the universe for him to find deserted planet to feed him. Galactus accepted the offer, and imbued Radd with Power Cosmic, giving him a fraction of his own and transforming him in the being that would have been known as the Silver Surfer.

Despite being impossible for Norrin Radd to come back to Zenn-La and to his beloved Shalla-Bal, being the Silver Surfer had some positive aspects to it, namely the unlimited freedom it granted to him: with the immense powers given to him by Galactus, the Surfer could roam the universe and explore it as he had always wanted to, learning much from other cultures and other forms of life, with the only obligement of finding an energy-rich planet with no sentient life on it for his master. Eventually, however, these kind of planets became rarer and rarer, to the point that Galactus, in order to ensure his own survival, progressively erased his herald’s past memories and conscience, so that he didn’t have any more hesitation in guiding him to inhabited planets as well. One day, the Surfer found a powerful barrier surrounding a planet extremely full of energy: Earth. Using his power, he easily silversurfercomics2pierced the barrier, a mimetic coat created by Uatu the Watcher to protect the planet, and he called for Galactus to feed on Earth. Obviously, the shining and silent visitor scared many on the planet, and the heroic team Fantastic Four arrived to confront the invader: after a battle, Silver Surfer fell into an attic, where he met a blind sculptress, Alicia Masters, who, not knowing who she was dealing with, welcomed him and treated him. During his time with Alicia, Silver Surfer remembered Norrin Radd: his humanity, his conscience and his memories resurfaced, and the resentment towards his master for deceiving him and his will to protect humanity brought him to turn on Galactus. With his enormous power, Silver Surfer allied with the Fantastic Four, and bought them enough time for the Human Torch and Uatu to retrieve the Ultimate Nullifier, the only item in the universe capable of posing a serious threat to Galactus’ god-like powers. Galactus was forced to retreat, but not before punishing his rogue herald for betraying him: the Devourer created a special barrier around Earth, syncronized on the Surfer’s cosmic energy, so that he was uncapable of ever leaving the planet’s orbit. With his freedom lost, Silver Surfer grew melancholic, but didn’t lose his thirst for knowledge and his noble soul: he wandered his new homeworld trying to understand its people, and to protect them…mainly from themselves.

Norrin Radd is a noble and selfless man, totally bent on his search for knowledge; he’s also a tormented and restless soul, who mourns the life he has lost, but values over everything else the freedom he’s been allowed. As the Silver Surfer, the Power Cosmic grants him a number of astonishing abilities: he can survive in the void of space, and he possesses superhuman strength, durability, stamina, speed and agility; he can fly at incredible speed on his board, and he can absorb and manipulate a nearly unlimited amount of energy, to the point that he can freely rearrange the molecules even of solid matter; the board itself can act as a cosmic energy storage, able to increase the already remarkable powers of its owner. One of the most powerful beings in the universe, and the most powerful among the heralds of Galactus, the Silver Surfer explores the universe in the effort of understanding the meaning of existence itself, and every planet, every people, every individual he meets enriches him with a tile to his mosaic.

Gabriel Reyes

gabereyesfilmAlso Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came back, and it was a pretty awesome premiere. At the end of The Ghost, after being defeated Quake spies on her new adversary, Ghost Rider, and following him she sees him with his younger brother, a crippled young man named Gabe Reyes and portrayed by Lorenzo James Henrie. We saw nothing of Gabe yet, apart from his good relationship with his brother Robbie, but he’s a recurring role, and we’ll most likely know something more about him (even just if he knows about his brother’s “night job”). Surely Henrie will do a better job here than in Fear the Walking Dead, at least as far as it concerns the writers involved. As usual, waiting to see more of him, let’s take a look at the original one (even if there’s not much to say).

Gabriel Reyes was born in Los Angeles, the second son of Alberto and Juliana Reyes. When Juliana was pregnant with Gabe, her estranged brother, Elias Morrow, paid a visit to his sister, but something went terribly wrong: during the “family reunion”, the violent Elias got enraged for something, and ended up pushing Juliana down the stairs, thus causing serious damaged to her unborn child. As a result, Gabe was born developmentally disabled, with his mobility being compromised forever. Gabe’s leg connections never developed, and he was forced to move with a wheelchair: since he was a kid, the one who took care of him the most when his parents were at work, and even more when they suddenly disappeared, was his older brother Robbie, who became his idol and personal hero. Despite his disability, Gabe grew up as a perfectly normal kid: he became a comicbook geek, had good grades at school, and hanged out with a group of friends…unfortunately, the block he lived in in L.A. wasn’t exactly a peaceful or a nice one, and Gabe was constantly bullied because of his condition. One day, while he was coming back from school, Gabe was attacked by a band of thugs led by Robbie’s classmate Guero, who wanted to gabereyescomics1steal his wheelchair. Robbie intervened immediately, and tried to fend them off…but Guero pulled out a gun, and pointed it to the boy’s head. With nothing to do but surrender, Robbie gave up, and the thugs stole Gabe’s wheelchair. Bloodied and angry, Robbie took his brother on his shoulders, and Gabe came back home piggyback. This however was the final straw, and from that moment Robbie put all his energies and resources in saving money enough to move to another block, in order to better protect Gabe.

Unbeknownst to Gabe, that very night Robbie participated to an illegal car race to win some big money and take him out of East L.A., but ended up starting a series of events that eventually transformed him in the new Ghost Rider. Gabe at first didn’t know anything about his brother’s death and resurrection, or about his urban war against Mister Hyde and his henchmen: he only knew that a morning he found his wheelchair besides his bed, as Robbie had “somehow” recovered it from Guero and his thugs. The reality of things, however, surfaced soon enough, as the spirit who was possessing Robbie (none other that uncle Eli Morrow himself) tried to force his nephew to exact vengeance on his killer, Yegor Ivanov, and when he refused, he targeted Gabe. The boy found himself under the evil influence of the satanist ghost, and after growing emotionally distant, he eventually surrendered to the manipulations of his uncle, and started hunting for Ivanov. Robbie tried to stop his possessed brother, but he was weak without the Rider’s powers. Eventually, however, in front of his old brother’s unquestioned love, Gabe found the strength to repel his uncle’s spirit, and Eli came back to Robbie, this time gabereyescomics2permanently. From that moment, the Reyes brothers shared also the secret of the Ghost Rider, and kowing that his brother had become a flaming possessed soul-eater didn’t unsettle Gabe the very least: now, Robbie was exactly the way he had always seen him, a superhero, and he would have always loved and trusted him.

Gabe Reyes is a simple boy, always cheerful and smiling, happy for pretty much everything. He loves his brother Robbie above anyone else, and the bond with him is the strongest he ever experienced in his life. Innocent and joyful, Gabe is the last shard of purity in Robbie’s life, an anchor that connects him to his fading humanity.

Robert Kirkman Langstrom (Man-Bat)

man-batfilmThe premiere for Gotham‘s new season has been quite an eventful one, and we have someone new to speak about. Let’s start with a controversial identification: in Better to Reign in Hell…, we meet Jim Gordon as a bounty hunter going after the monsters released from Indian Hill. Most of the mutants have been hired by Fish Mooney in her new gang, and one of these freaks is quite a peculiar guy: with unnaturally long fingers, pointy ears and sensitivity to light, he ends up sporting a pair of bat wings the moment Gordon throws him out of a window. That’s most likely a proto-version of Man-Bat, one of the most bizarre villains in Batman‘s rogue gallery. This is the first live action appearance (sort of) for the unwilling monster, who’s never found space in movies or tv series so far. Waiting to see what he and the other freaks will be up to, let’s take a look at the original.

Robert Kirkman Langstrom, or simply Kirk, was born in Gotham City; when he was but a kid, during a country trip with his parents he fell into a deep cavern, and got lost underground. The researches for the child went on for six weeks, and everybody believed him to be dead already…but eventually, just as when even his mother was about to lose hope, Kirk was found by the police, and brought back home. Oddly enough, at first young Kirk refused to leave the cavern, claiming that his “friends” were still inside. The cops believed the kid to be delirious for the loneliness and the starvation, and took him away…but in the following days, Kirk kept telling stories about giant bats who took care of him while he was in the cave. Whether this was just an allucination, a fantasy to protect himself from the trauma or something alarmingly real, in the following years Kirk seemed to give up the idea of meeting his friends again (much to his parents’ relief), but he never abandoned his fascination for bats. When he entered Gotham University he studied zoology, and obviously specialised in chiropterology. The more he studied bats, the more he believed mankind could learn from these animals, and he even dreamed of a hybdridation to perfect humans with bat DNA. Most of his peers and colleagues mocked him man-batcomics1because of his obsession, but one woman grew fascinated by Kirk’s determination and passion, Francine Lee: the two started hanging out together, fell in love, and eventually got married. During his first years of marriage, Langstrom found out he was becoming deaf due to a genetic disease: this only hastened his researches, and he became so obsessed with his work that he grew distant even from Francine. Eventually, however, his effort was rewarded as he managed to synthesize a serum that, allegedly, isolated the genes that in bats caused the increased hearing, a potential genetic therapy for deafness. Eager to see if his serum worked, Kirk tested it on himself. The results were exactly the ones he had hoped for…well, at least at first.

Not only the serum gave Kirk Langstrom his hearing back, it also granted him echolocation, increasing his senses far beyond a regular human. It also turned his fingers into claws and deformed his nose, but this were side-effects that the doctor didn’t consider. Fascinated by Gotham’s hero, Batman (obviously), Langstrom decided to follow his footsteps and became a vigilante using the moniker Man-Bat, since he was now a man/bat hybrid. First, he repelled the “invasion” of the Blackout Gang in his place of work, Gotham Natural History Museum, and he even teamed up with Batman for that. When the hero complimented him for his “disguise”, however, Langstrom escaped, not wanting him to realise he wasn’t wearing a costume at all. A short time later, Kirk found out that the “side effects” weren’t over, and that his mutation continued: a pair of leather wings started growing under his arms, and he became able to glide in the wind soon…but he also started suffering from blackouts, and everytime he woke up, he was in a different place from the one he had been before. Eventually, the mutation was complete, and Langstrom’s mind was completely overrun by pure instinct: he was now more animal than man, and his appearance was the one of a monstrous anthropomorphic bat. Completely bent on instinct, the Man-Bat flew over Gotham, seldomly attacking people everytime he felt threated; eventually, following man-batcomics2the other bats, he arrived in a huge cave to have some rest. That, however, was no ordinary cave: it was the Batcave, Batman’s hideout and headquarters. While he was sleeping upside down, Man-Bat was found by Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s friend and butler: feeling menaced, the monster attacked Alfred, who despite his military training was easily overpowered by the creature. Luckily enough, Batman had just come back from his patrol, and saved Alfred subduing the monster. Examining the creature, Batman found out it was actually human, and developed a cure for Langstrom’s state. When he reawakaned, however, Man-Bat had retained enough intelligence to speak, and to refuse Batman’s help: nothing would have prevented him from being the perfect creature he had always dreamed of, and if he had to sacrifice his humanity to achieve it, it was a small price to pay…

Kirk Langstrom is a brilliant man, a devoted scientist with a remarkable intellect…and a crippling monomania: only the love for his wife Francine manages to distract him from his obsession with bats, and only for a while. As Man-Bat, he transforms into a human/bat hybrid with enhanced strength, speed, agility and durability; he can fly with his leather wings, and possesses an ecolocation that makes his hearing formidable; he also has sharp fangs and claws. Langstrom is able to partially retain his intellect while in his Man-Bat form, but it’s rare that he remains fully himself as a hybrid: when this happens, he’s a formidable force for good, using his powers to fight criminality as a hero. Otherwise, he’s a mindless and dangerous beast, ready and able to kill anyone he perceives as a threat. Or as food.

Cornelius Stirk

corneliusstirkfilmGotham just came back to our screens…but before starting with the new characters of the season, I’ll make up for a guy I didn’t notice in the previous season’s pre-finale, A Legion of Horribles. When Hugo Strange and Miss Peabody decide they’ve had enough of Edward Nygma, they put him in the same cell of a cannibalistic brute, just waiting for the moment he’ll break his bonds and kill Nygma (who saves himself by revealing precious informations to Strange). The cannibal is Cornelius Stirk, portrayed by Kameron Omidian, a guy that made his presence felt in the story arc Knightfall, in the comics. Despite his caveman-look, he surely is prettier than his original counterpart, and apparently lacks of a couple of superpowers characterising him… Waiting to see if he’ll surface again as part of Fish Mooney‘s new gang, let’s take a look at Stirk as he originally appears.

Not much is known of Cornelius Stirk’s origins: he was allegedly born in Gotham City, and something went horribly wrong with his mind since the very beginning. When he was only sixteen years old, he brutally attacked one of his classmates with the clear intent of killing him: apparently, he delusionally believed that he needed the hormones inside his heart to survive, and wanted to rip it off his chest. Certified insane, Stirk was sent to Arkham Asylum to be cured…but the results weren’t exactly the ones the judge hoped for. The Asylum was now run by Jeremiah Arkham, who adopted a more “direct way” of dealing with his difficult patients: everytime Stirk refused to take his medicines, Arkham ordered his men to beat him up and to force the pills down his throat. Obviously, the maniac managed to take some revenge once in a while, such as when he managed to lock one of his doctors in his cell along with him: after torturing him and scaring him to death, he tied him upside down with a rope, and ripped his heart off, eating it afterwards (he believed that the hormones he needed for survival were released by the body only corneliusstirkcomics1under extreme fear). Stirk spent years in the asylum, but the repeated abuses ended up awakening his latent metagene, that gave him a limited telepathy which he used to cast minor illusions and to instill fear in others. As soon as Stirk realised what his abilities were, and how they worked, he used them on his doctors, and forced them to certify him as “sane” and to release him. Finally back to the outside world, Stirk could resume his battle for survival, that resulted in him quickly becoming a serial killer. He used his powers to appear to other people as someone they could trust, sometimes even Jesus or Abraham Lincoln, luring them into traps to capture them, torture them and eventually killing them, cooking their heart in the norepinephrine produced by their overwhelming fear. Nobody was able to catch him, as every night he assumed a different look for his hunt. He was the ultimate hunter.

Then, Bane came, and he changed everything. In a personal war against Batman, Bane destroyed Arkham Asylum, releasing all the monsters it contained on Gotham and enlisting them in his personal anti-Bat army. Also freaks that were already free joined the alliance, and Cornelius Stirk was among the ones who gladly aided Bane in his crusade (he had met Batman once, after he had killed and eaten a man named Ed Hunt and the Dark Knight had tracked him down). Stirk teamed up with The Joker, who planned to contribute to the destruction of Batman by kidnapping his closest ally, Commissioner Gordon. The cannibal volunteered for the mission, and he appeared to the Commissioner as Batman himself…but he didn’t exactly stick to the plan, much to Joker’s annoyance, and he tried to murder Gordon istead of abducting him. Assaulting the Commissioner with a knife, Stirk proceeded to project fear into him, making him all the more delicious…until the real Batman arrived, interrupting the attack. corneliusstirkcomics2Gordon was saved, but fear had taken the best part of him, and his wife Sarah was forced to bring him to a hospital; in the meanwhile, Stirk tried to escape, but Batman managed to find him despite his illusions, and he arrested him. Since Arkham had been destroyed, Stirk was sent to Blackgate Penitentiary. Monsters like him, Amygdala and Poison Ivy were locked with normal criminals, and the prison’s direction desperately tried to find a way to make all the inmates get along…and they actually found it in quite an unexpected way, by organizing a softball tournament to keep all the maniacs distracted. Cornelius himself apreciated the game very much, and he proved to be a skilled pitcher…he enjoyed the ball, since it felt just like a human heart in his hand. When Arkham Asylum was rebuilt, Stirk was transferred there again, resuming his never finished treatment…not that there was anything to do for such a twisted and cruel mind, obviously.

Cornelius Stirk is a seriously deranged man, deeply convinced that he needs to eat fresh human hearts filled with fear to survive. Manipulative, brutal and cruel, he enjoys torturing his victims before eating them, claiming that fear makes them more “delicious”. He’s a metahuman with the ability to cast illusions, a power that he uses to hide his grotesque appearance behind a trustworthy facade; he can also project fear into his victims’ mind, thus adding psychological torture to the usual physical one. Extremely dangerous, Stirk is a cannibalistic sadist who uses his telepathic powers to be the perfect predator in the urban jungle, a night hunter who never loses his prey…

St. John Allerdyce (Pyro)

pyrofilmThis week several tv series are starting the new season, but waiting for them, let’s see another character from Brick89‘s list, another mutant, another villain: Pyro. Pyro first appeared in the very first X-Men movie as one of the Xavier Institute‘s students, portrayed by Alex Burton: he tries to flirt with the newcomer Rogue by creating a fire ball, but Iceman freezes it ruining his effort. In X2: X-Men United he’s portrayed by Aaron Stanford, and he’s one of the few students who manages to avoid being captured by William Stryker and his men; he follows the remaining X-Men in the rescue mission, but he ends up being seduced by Magneto‘s philosophy, and joins him by the end. In X-Men: The Last Stand he’s become Magneto’s right hand man, and follows him everywhere, committing terrorist attacks under his orders. During the battle of Alcatraz he’s defeated by Iceman, and flees when the Dark Phoenix unleashes her power. His trademark zippo on a memorial in X-Men: Days of Future Past informs us that he’s been killed by the Sentinels, but it remains to be seen if he’ll ever return in the new timeline. In the meanwhile, let’s take a look at the original one.

St. John Allerdyce was born in SydneyAustralia, from an unknown family. Growing up, he found out he was a mutant with the power of controlling and manipulating fire (but not of creating it): since he couldn’t think of any useful way to use his ability, he preferred to keep it secret for most of his early life, and soon became a journalist, living for some years in Southeast Asia (especially Vietnam and Indonesia). His travels gave him enough material to start working on his true dream, becoming a writer, and he actually managed to do it, first writing novels based on his experiences in Asia, then Gothic romance novels: in both cases, the critics hated his books just as much as other novelists did, but he had quite a success with the wide public that encouraged him in continuining his work. St. John met many readers and fans every day, but once the woman who approached him turned out to be something else entirely: she was a mutant as well, the shapeshifter known as Mystique, and she offered him a different kind of pyrocomics1contract. Mystique was recruiting mutants to form a second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, following the disapperance of Magneto and the disbandment of the previous one, and she needed someone with John’s…talents. Allerdyce didn’t know how she had learnt he was a mutant, since he only used his powers for emergencies and it had been a while since the last time, but he was intrigued by the woman’s offer, and by the perspective of doing something more with his life than writing Gothic romance for old dreaming women. Convinced, he joined Mystique and the other mutants she had already recruited: the precog Destiny, the immovable Blob and the destructive Avalanche (the last one soon became his best friend). Mystique helped him develop his power, so that he could manipulate fire to higher levels; since he wasn’t fireproof, however, he was given a special isolating suit that protected him from the flames, and to compensate his inability to create fire, he was also equipped with a portable flamethrower he mounted on his wrists. Pyro was born.

The first mission for the new Brotherhood was to kill Senator Robert Kelly, a strong anti-mutant activist. A time-traveling mutant, Kate Pryde, arrived from the future to thwart the assassination, as Kelly’s murder would have started a chain reaction that eventually brought the robotic Sentinels to annihilate mutants and superumans, taking over the world. Pyro and the others didn’t care much for this warnings (they had their own future teller, after all), but the X-Men did: the two teams clashed, and eventually the Brotherhood was defeated and the Senator saved. Pyro was arrested, but the authorities made the mistake of putting all the mutant terrorists together in the same prison: as soon as they realised this, they put together their efforts to break out…or at least to try to, as the Avengers were called to face the emergency, and in the ensuing fight the Brotherhood was defeated once again. Pyro stayed imprisoned for months, until the US Government offered the members of the Brotherhood a deal: they would have served under them, in exchange of pardon for their past crimes (this was a chance for the Government to have a “public face” to their newly signed Mutant Registration Act, in the effort of making the law pyrocomics2more popular). The Brotherhood accepted the offer, and they became Freedom Force, a law-abiding team used as an obedient puppet by the Government agents. During their first mission, Freedom Force faced the Avengers again, with the order of arresting America’s most popular (and powerful) heroes. Pyro accomplished several missions with Freedom Force, and proved pivotal in the arrest of Rusty Collins, a sailor with pyrokinetic powers: every time they battled, usually with groups like X-FactorX-Terminators, the New Mutants or even the Mutant Liberation Front, Pyro used his powers to manipulate the fire created by Collins, turning it against him and his allies. He was fundumental even during the massive breakout in the Vault, where his pyrokinesis was the only thing able to keep at bay Venom. Eventually, FF was disbanded, and Pyro and Blob were abandoned in Kuwait after a disastrous mission: being betrayed like this wasn’t exactly what John had signed for, and after being a war prisoner, his feelings towards the Government were so friendly that he immediately decided to come back to the new Brotherhood, this time led by Toad.

St. John Allerdyce is a pragmatic man, not evil, but surely ready to do pretty much everything for some profit. Despite being usually one of the “bad guys”, John has also acted heroically in his life, proving to be selfless and brave if situation required it. As Pyro, he has the power to control and manipulate fire, giving it any shape he desires (usually animal shapes) and moving it as he likes it; he’s not able to create fire, but he can increase the dimension of existing ones, so he carries a flamethrower on his wrists to light a fire that he later controls. Both a hero and a villain depending on the circumstances (or simply the mood), Pyro is a mutant mercenary who will always take care of one person in the world: himself.

Jason Wyngarde (Mastermind)

mastermindfilmAnother villain from Brick89‘s list, this time from the mutants‘ world: Mastermind. His movie adaptation is an amalgam of different characters, the first being him, following the unnamed son killed by William Stryker (a recent retcon resurrected him) and Mutant 146: all three together form Jason Stryker, a lobotomized mutant able to cast illusions so powerful that they can trick even the world’s most powerful telepath, Professor X. Jason first appears in X2: X-Men United, portrayed by Michael Reid McKay: in here, he’s Stryker’s son, who as a child was so resentful towards his mutant-hating parents that he tortured them with his powers, leading his mother to suicide. As Stryker started working on Weapon X, he used his son as his first guinea pig, and transformed him into a mindless drone in his total control, and he unleashed him against Professor X to force him to kill all mutants on the planet. He then briefly appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, portrayed by an unnamed kid, frozen by his father in a cryogenic stasis. Now, let’s see who Jason (Wyngarde, not Stryker) is in the comics.

Little or nothing is known about Jason Wyngarde’s early life. He was born somewhere in the South of the United States of America, and he was a mutant in a moment in which most people didn’t even know mutants existed. He had the remarkable advantage of not suffering a physical mutation, as he was capable of projecting extremely accurate and complex illusions in the mind of anybody. As an adult, he trained in the use of his powers bringing them to perfection, so that they could influence every single sense of his target; he used this talent in quite an underwhelming way, however, as he joined a carnival and started working as a mentalist. His show was extremely popular, but nobody could see behind the “trick” Wyngarde used…nobody but a stranger passing by, who immediately recognised him as a mutant. The man turned out to be Magneto, the mutant terrorist, who was mastermindcomics1gathering other mutants from all around the country to form a team able to face the X-Men, the mutant superheroes who had stopped him from taking over Cape Citadel. Jason Wyngarde was exactly the kind of man Magneto was looking for, and the mentalist liked the terrorist’s idea of protecting mutankind from an inevitable racist uprise of humanity: Jason joined the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants as Mastermind, and along with his teammates ToadQuicksilver and Scarlet Witch battled the X-Men more than once. Mastermind proved to be more ambitious than his idealistic leader, and aimed to conquer the world to form a mutant utopia…one in which he would have been much more than the carnival trickster he had always been. Along with his ambition, he also developed a strong desire towards his teammate Scarlet Witch, but her overprotective brother Quicksilver always kept him away from her. Mastermind was kept in high consideration by Magneto, and he was also sent to recruit other mutants to the cause in his stead (even if he failed in convincing Unus the Untouchable). His cooperation with the Brotherhood ended when the cosmic being The Stranger, enraged at Magneto, transformed Mastermind into a statue and brought the Master of Magnetism and Toad on another planet.

Luckily enough, The Stranger’s spell wasn’t permanent, and after a while Mastermind returned to his old fleshy self. Without Magneto around, with his ambition not the least quelled, Wyngarde joined Factor Three, another mutant-based organization with similar aims and ideals to the Brotherhood, but much more pragmatical: they aimed to create a mutant nation capable of rivaling USA and URSS for world supremacy. Factor Three’s plan nearly worked, especially thanks to the forced “help” of Banshee, until the X-Men intervened once again, exposing the team’s leader, Mutant Master, as an alien who sought to conquer Earth. Factor Three and X-Men teamed up to defeat the Mutant Master, and managed to save the planet from an invasion…but the battle attracted the attention of the mutant hunting robots Sentinels, against whom Mastermind’s psychic powers were pretty much useless. Wyngarde was saved by his sworn enemies, the X-Men, and apparently abandoned his criminal ways as a result…but he was the mastermindcomics2master of illusions, and even his “conversion” was nothing but a trick to take time and decide what to do next. He joined the reborn Brotherhood along with fellow Factor Three members Blob and Unus, and finally Magneto came back on Earth and claimed back his leadership. He even created the first artificial mutant, the extremely powerful Alpha…but that proved to be not much of a good idea, as during a fight against the Defenders Alpha rebelled to his creators, and turned them all into children, thus annihilating their powers (mutant powers developed through puberty). At least, Mastermind had learnt to bring his powers to a whole other level, as with Magneto’s help he had casted a powerful illusion on an entire nation (Santo Marco, in South America), helping the Brotherhood to conquer it. As a result, as soon as he came back to his adult age he was contacted by the powerful Hellfire Club, who had become interested in the illusionist. As a test for admission, he managed to manipulate the powerful X-Woman Jean Grey into becoming the new Black Queen in the Club. Finally, Mastermind had found someone who could fully apreciate his talent, someone who could also reward his personal ambition just the way he wanted it…

Jason Wyngarde is an ambitious man, frustrated by the lack of recognition his talent suffered through all his life. As Mastermind, he has the mutant power to cast powerful illusions on his targets, able to affect every sense; his illusions are so complex and realistic that he’s actually able to kill someone with them (once he made someone believe he was drowning, and even if there wasn’t any actual water the man ceased to breath and died), and he can envelop in his power more than one person per time, once even an entire country. Manipulative and clever, he’s one of the most dangerous mutants around, mostly because he’s constantly, and wrongfully, underestimated…a thing he obviously uses at his own advantage.