In the ever-evolving landscape of comics, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved characters’ sordid histories.
Today’s subject: Professor Charles Xavier
Oh, Kitty Pryde… full of so much Wisdom at such a young age. Sadly, none of your peers would heed your warning, and the Professor’s inner jerk-wad would run rampantly unchecked over the years to come. Xavier was never a catch. He recruited children to wage his war for him. He maintained a romance with Lillandra Nermani of the Shi’ar whom he was only even remotely involved with when it served the writers. He was clearly not an emotionally stable man. But he wasn’t a bad guy, really. Not yet. But what began with the psychic lobotomizing of lifelong friend and foil Magneto would eventually turn into editorial’s carte blanche to insert acts of douchebaggery throughout the Professor’s history, culminating in a character who is more zero than hero.
Xavier was always a hero, even if a somewhat morally ambiguous one. Once the mind wipe happened, however, it became increasingly easier to depict Xavier in a darker light. Then, that same act led to him creating Onslaught, and all hell broke loose. From that point on, Xavier’s character would constantly be in question. It wouldn’t be enough, either, to use this as a launch pad for future questionable acts. Oh no. Writers would go so far as to retroactively introduce such heinous acts as the murder of Cassandra Nova and the erasure of Scott’s memories of his brother. These were not the actions of the Xavier we’d known and loved all along.
It didn’t help matters that, concurrently, the Ultimate Universe was giving us an image of a truly Machiavellian Xavier willing to stop at almost nothing to achieve his agenda. This Xavier was meant to be an exaggeration of the more sinister acts of the Professor X of the 616, but I suspect that for some writers the temptation became too great to include aspects of this Xavier in the original.
The end result of all of this is an Xavier being re-imagined in the pages of X-Men Legacy to reflect a noble soul but a tough-as-nails attitude. All well and good, but with Cyclops having recently undergone a similar bout of maturation, it seems a bit… redundant.
In X-Men vol. 2; issue 25, Magneto rips the Adamantium from Wolverine’s bones, prompting Xavier to retaliate by mind wiping his foe. An act of passionate rage, this move is easily dismissible as having been “in the moment.” Later, in Wolverine issue 106 it would be revealed that this act created the Onslaught persona within Xavier.
X-Men vol. 2; issue 53 revealed to Jean Grey a creepy, leering Xavier who secretly harbored a forbidden love for his favorite student. No, not Cyclops. While this had been established as far back as vol. 1; issue 4, it had been all but fogotten until being brought to light once more by Onslaught.
X-Men vol. 2; issue 121 gave us Grant Morrison’s take on Xavier’s in-utero attempted murder of Cassandra Nova. To be fair, she WAS an evil doppelganger.
In Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men #11, we discovered that Charles was aware the Danger Room had become sentient but kept it enslaved for his own purposes.
X-Men: Deadly Genesis #4 told us the story of how Xavier had erased Scott Summers’ memory of his brother Gabriel after Xavier sent Gabriel and his team to their deaths against Krakoa. Not only did the revelation of these events turn Cyclops against his former mentor, the events themselves were responsible for turning Gabriel into the power mad psychotic now known as Vulcan, emperor of the Shi’ar.
So, how do we fix this? Do we make it go away? Or do we just try to come up with a damn good reason for all that’s happened along the way? You choose:
Onslaught returns. Again. This time, he exhibits the commensurate power levels we expect. As he ravages the 616, a narrator debates “becoming involved.” Finally, Jean Grey wielding the Phoenix Force bursts onto the scene. But Onslaught is too powerful even for her. We see Onslaught destroy the Phoenix, but in the next issue, we discover she’s actually escaped into the time stream. Since she can’t beat Onslaught, she’ll prevent him from ever having been created. The story follows Jean intervening in key moments in Xavier’s past, preventing him from having to make some of his more… dubious decisions. The Phoenix attacks Cassandra Nova. It is the Phoenix who rescues the X-Men from Krakoa. And, when Professor Xavier does NOT lash out at Magneto, it is instead Jean who erases Magneto’s mind. The final issue of our story catches us up to the origin of Onslaught, now a construct of Jean Grey’s mind, not Xavier’s. The new Onslaught is not as powerful, the heroes of Earth don’t have to sacrifice themselves to stop him, and the 616 begins anew in the wake of Onslaught.
What this changes would be, well, just about everything. This would be a “Crisis” level retcon where you need to begin retelling the entire history of the Marvel Universe from that point forward. Mutants are never as hated as they were in the wake of Onslaught’s original defeat. Cyclops questions Jean’s response to the attack on Logan, and it creates a rift in their relationship. Vulcan and his team were never sent into battle, and as such, Gabriel discovers his brother much later in life and is a much more stable individual. Eventually, while Scott takes a turn towards becoming the more forceful leader we’ve seen in X-Force, Xavier keeps his hands clean and remains in the role of teacher for another new generation of kids. The ideologies of the two often clash, but in truth, each realizes the need for the other. Xavier continues to fight for his dream while Scott and his team are the ones keeping the world safe for the dreamers.
Are we really meant to believe Mr. Sinister is the only scientist Apocalypse has ever had in his sway? Survivalism is the story of another servant of Apocalypse, one far more loyal, and the experiments he engaged in over the years. Among them? The cultivation of a crop of warriors for Apocalypse to claim as his own, a crop of survivors. In this tale, we learn that Apocalypse’s creed is carved into the very DNA of a handful of mutants, most prominent among them, Charles Xavier himself. Every time the man has been faced with true danger, his programming has taken over and done what needed to be done. Cassandra Nova, Scott Summers, Erik Lehnsherr, Danger… all were victims of Apocalypse’s agent more than they were ever truly victims of Xavier himself.
Now, in the present, we see the programming finally, fully take hold as Apocalypse activates his sleepers. A new group of Dark Riders. A new class of Horsemen. Xavier would stand alongside previous experiments such as Archangel as well as new recruits to the cause. Finally, we’d see motivation for Xavier’s darker deeds while at the same time, we’d bear witness to the man’s battle against the programming. Eventually, of course, Apocalyspe’s defeat would come at the very hands of those he’d turned to his own will, and the survivors would be left to wonder: were they better off for what the ancient villain had done, and could they ever truly be free of his control?