Hello True Believers! Last time I talked about the X-Men, I listed and discussed the various offshoot groups that had spun out from the mega-team. After that, I decided to do the same thing with the X-Men’s greatest villains. However, given the history of the X-Men, I realized that this would take more than one piece to do such a list justice, so this will be only the first part of this discussion. Over the course of this series, I am going talk about the team’s greatest opponents, and their place in X-Men history. Ready? Yes? Then let’s get to it!
X-Men: Greatest Villains Part 1
Part one of my ongoing series on the X-Men's greatest adversaries.
Hive Mind Destruction
Our first entry in this series is a species of space fairing monsters that were created almost completely by accident. During Chris Claremont’s legendary 15 year run on Uncanny X-Men, he worked with artist Dave Cockrum for a number of years, together penning some of the more famous X-Men of all time, together creating many heroes and villains that all X-Fans will remember. The Brood however, were originally created almost as place-filler, Claremont telling Cockrum to create some kind of ‘alien henchmen’ for Deathbird, a Shi’ar adversary of the X-Men. Cockrum took to the challenge, drawing Deathbird standing next to, “the most horrible looking thing” he could think of. The insect race was hideous to say the least, with a hive mind not unlike ants or bees, but vicious and dangerous as hell.
After their introduction in the pages of Captain Marvel, the Brood were used by Deathbird to overthrow her sister Lilandra and become Empress of the Shi’ar, capturing the X-Men in the process and giving them to the Brood. The X-Men manage to escape, but Cyclops is infected with a Brood Queen Embryo and the team is forced to return to Broodworld, where every one of them except Wolverine is turned into a Brood Warrior. Binary rescues the team, and manages to trap the Brood Queen in a crystal state, which destroys the Broodworld.
The Brood would return again and again to fight the X-Men, becoming a consistent and dangerous enemy for the mutant team. Their most famous conflict came in Contest of Champions II, where they kidnapped a number of Earth heroes and forced them to fight each other in the hopes of absorbing their powers. The Queen was eventually stopped, and the Brood faded away. Over the following years, the Brood were rarely seen in the pages of Marvel Comics, until the Cosmic event Annihilation, where they are nearly driven to extinction by Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave.
This event lead the X-Men to discover a Brood that had the ability to feel compassion, and along with Bishop helped save this Broodling before it was destroyed. In the pages of Wolverine and the X-Men, a Broodling (never confirmed if it was the same one), named Broo was featured, becoming a student at the school and showing an intelligence unseen before in the species. This would go along with Bishop detailing to the X-Men that a benevolent race of Brood would rise to help other species, leading many readers to believe that Broo was the first of his kind.
The Brood have showed up a handful of times since then, fighting the X-Men or Avengers at separate times, and have maintained their status as one of the most disturbing villains in the X-Men’s history. Will they return? Probably, the violent species never ceasing their quest to infect every living race with their vicious nature.
Dr Jeckyl Mr... Dinosaur?
One of the more tragic villains in the X-Men’s long history, Sauron is a Doctor Jekyll/Mister Hyde character creator by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams back in 1969. The story of his creation is a strange one, as he was originally envisioned as a giant bat-like creature that could drain the energy out of anyone around him. However, the Comics Code (everyone groan) prohibited the use of vampires (WTF?), so Thomas and Adams were advised that the bat-like energy vampire they had envisioned might go against the Code’s laws (seriously, groaning and rubbing my temples at the stupidity). So, they changed his appearance to that of a pterodactyl, which ended up being a huge blessing in disguise.
Sauron was once a man by the name of Karl Lykos, who was the son of an explorer’s guide. While working with his father, he saved their client’s daughter Tanya from a group of mutant pterodactyls (you know like we all have to at some point in our lives). However, in the midst of the rescue, he was bitten by one of them. Not thinking much of it at the time, eventually he discovered that he needed to drain other people’s life force in order to sustain his own life.
Somehow, he managed to keep his newfound abilities hidden, living a fairly normal life and falling in love with Tanya. Her father disapproved of Lykos’s lack of wealth however, and thus, he became a doctor, specialising in genetics and hypnotherapy, using the latter to gain access to patients in order to drain their life force to survive. He continued to work like this for many years until he became a colleague of Charles Xavier.
Shortly after meeting Charles for the first time, Karl would encounter the X-Men when Havok needed treatment for his mental problems. Karl once again used his powers to drain Havok’s life energy, but Havok’s mutant power transformed Lykos into a pterodactyl, increasing his strength and power tenfold. Renaming himself Sauron, he did battle with the X-Men, but upon realizing that his new form could harm Tanya, he fled, refusing to feed on anything which forced his body to revert to human form. Tanya eventually did track him down, but Karl threw himself off a cliff to avoid hurting her.
As with most comic book characters, Karl survived his supposed death, and after he recovered he made his way to the Savage Land, where he became a member of Ka-Zar’s tribe. While there, he only fed on small animals to survive, and used his skill as a physician to help Ka-Zar’s people. His life was peaceful for a time, but when the X-Men became stranded in the Savage Land, he could not resist the hunger for their mutant energy, draining what he could from Storm and becoming Sauron once again. The X-Men managed to defeat him, and left him in Ka-Zar’s care.
After this incident, Tanya travelled to the Savage land with Peter Parker and Angel to find Lykos, but were captured by Mutates and experimented on. Though Lykos was able to save them, he was forced to absorb energy from the Mutates machine in order to do so, becoming Sauron once again. He took leadership of the Mutates, but was defeated by the X-Men, whom afterward took him to the X-Mansion where Professor X would seemingly cure Lykos of his condition, allowing him to be with Tanya.
However, this would not last long, Toad forcing Lykos to transform into Sauron, killing Tanya in the process. This decision was incredibly controversial, as it gave Lykos no reason to return to a normal life, effectively destroying the Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy of the character. As it turns out, this move was what led to the character’s fall from popularity, as after years of battle the X-Men and their affiliates, Sauron slowly faded into a obscurity, returning to the Savage Land where he has for the most part stayed to this day.
Sauron is good example of a good villain that with one crucial mistake became generic, eventually fading into the background of the X-Men’s Rogue Gallery. He has returned several times in recent years, but never with the same prestige, often being defeated in short order, and has unfortunately become a bit of a joke among modern readers. It’s sad, but it hasn’t been the first time that’s happened to a character and for my money it won’t be the last.
Yes, This Guy Exists
Another villain created during the X-Men’s rise to prominence in the 1970s, Arcade is a classic teenage character that is just weird enough to be awesome. Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the character has been an on again, off again villain in Marvel for years, and though hess never risen to the heights of the major baddies, he is a middle tier villain that many X-Fans have a soft spot in their heart for.
Arcade was originally an assassin who used a deadly theme park known as Murderworld to kill his targets. Unlike many villains, Arcade likes to give his victims a chance at survival through his deathtraps, claiming that it made things more ‘sporting’. Not much is known about him before he became Arcade other than he is very wealthy, which he only increased when his success rate made him the most expensive hitman in the world. Since his debut, Arcade has done battle with the X-Men and their affiliate teams, but no matter how elaborate his methods, the heroes always managed to escape Murderworld and send Arcade packing. Though wounded several times, he has never been outright killed. He’s been announced dead many times (it is comic books we’re talking about after all), but each of those times “Arcade” turned out to be a robot copy he had constructed himself. Over the years, Arcade has popped up here and there, most recently in the Avengers Arena book, as well as its sequel Avengers Undercover.
Arcade has never been a big baddie for the X-Men, not in the same sense as the others on this list, but I included him because of his cult status as one of the X-Men’s more memorable opponents. Since Avengers Undercover, he hasn’t been seen or heard of, but if history is any evidence that won’t last long, as Arcade and Murderworld always seem to pop up when you least expect it.
Russian Wolverine... Sort Of
Our next villain hails from the 1990s, and was created by two of the X-Men’s most famous artists, John Byrne and Jim Lee. First seen in 1992, little is known about Omega Red before he became a supervillain. His first origin story was that he was serial killer arrested by Interpol agent Sean Cassidy (Banshee for those keeping score at home), and handed over to the KGB who experimented on him to created their own version of Captain America. In another version, he was a Soviet soldier/serial killer stationed in a small town, who was shot in the head when his crimes were discovered. Surviving the execution, his superiors were impressed and entered him into the aforementioned super soldier program, and he soon became one of their agents. Red was given large carbonadium tentacles, which gave him the ability to drain the life from another person. While this sounds good (sort of), he would need to continually replenish his supply of the alloy in order to survive. His new powers in place, he became a dangerous and unstable killer for the USSR, proving that giving a serial killer super powers in a REALLY bad idea.
Over the years, the Soviet government began to regret their decision, Omega Red proving unpredictable and overly violent. He was thrown into suspended animation, but once the Union fell, he was freed by The Hand. The Hand employed him as one of their warriors, and sent him after Wolverine under the information that Logan could help him find more carbonadium. This wasn’t true (evil organization lying, what a shock), but it did lead to several intense battles with the X-Men, each time leading to his defeat.
As the years went on, Red became more and more of a background player, fighting the X-Men and their allies only on rare occasions as the idea of a Soviet villain became less and less viable to the comic book public. He would still pop up from time to time, but never with the same feeling of danger that he once did. Still, he was a terrible foe for the mutant team, specifically Wolverine, and will likely show up again at some point to create no small amount of havoc.
In addition to being a Russian Supervillain, Mikhail Rasputin is also the older brother of veteran X-Men Colossus and Magick, though to be honest the family connection is in name only for the latter. Formally a cosmonaut, he was believed dead when his shuttle exploded while on a mission. In reality, the explosion was staged, the Russia government learning of his mutant powers and wanting to exploit them without any ties to his past (namely his family).
Soon after, he was sent through a portal to another world, using his matter-manipulation powers to survive the trip, and became a god-like figure worshipped by the local populace.It was on this world that the X-Men found him, the portal he had created endangering both his own world and Earth. With their help, he closed the portal and came back through. Unfortunately, he soon became a tyrannical leader of the Morlocks, and then massacred nearly their entire population soon thereafter. From there, he created the Gene Nation on another world (his base known as the Hill), setting himself up as a king and adopting a philosophy he called, “survival of the fittest”, while serving a mysterious benefactor. The X-Men would fight and defeat him several more times after this, eventually discovering that he was working for Dark Beast, a survivor of the Age of Apocalypse Universe.
Throughout the following years, Mikhail popped again and again, though his evil ways were often in conflict with his familial connection with Magick and Colossus. During the Legacy Virus storyline, he tried to save Magick from the virus but failed, revealing that his actions had actually given her the virus in the first place (time travel deal, long story). Rasputin would commit suicide soon thereafter, and was presumed dead, though in reality it was just a ploy.
Rasputin would return during the The Twelve storyline, this time coming face to face with Colossus for the first since he faked his death, and managed to free him from the evil influence of the dimension he had discovered so many years ago. However, when Rasputin was taken to the X-Mansion to recover, they were attacked by Apocaylpse in search of the Twelve, of which Mikhail was a member. In the resulting battles, Mikhail transported the Horsemen away from the battle sacrificing himself, or so it had seemed.
Years later, he would return with Mr Sinister, attempting to wipe out the Rasputin line. Colossus would help him turn against Sinister, and banish their ancenstor Grigori to a dark dimension, where Mikhail would go as well to cure his own insanity. That was the last we would see of Mikhael, though it has been confirmed that he did retain his powers after M-Day.
Mikhael Rasputin is an interesting character in the X-Men’s history as he is not truly a villain in the sense that his evil ways were caused by the corrupting influence of the dimension he travelled to in his origins. His family connection with Magick and Colossus did drive him him to redeem himself somewhat, but he has still caused no small amount of pain for the X-Men over the years. Will we see him again? Honestly, it’s up in the air. But if he does come back, it will always be a question of whether he is an ally or enemy, and if his siblings can save him from the insanity he brought upon himself.
In the mid-90s, Marvel Comics was taken over by the massive crossover event Age of Apocalypse, which has since gone down as one of the biggest storylines in company history and one of the best comic book stories of the 1990s. I’ve spoken of this storyline before, so I won’t go into any massive detail here, but in short Age of Apocalypse was an alternate timeline in which the Marvel Universe had been turned on its ear. The X-Men were still there, but they were different, each and every one of them a strange, distorted mirror of the characters that had become so famous and so beloved by comic book readers.
The most striking change by far was that of Dr Hank McCoy, the Beast. In AOA, he was known as Dark Beast, and was a sadistic mad scientist under the employ of Apocaylpse, and a major adversary for the Magneto lead X-Men. Created by Scott Lobdell and Roger Cruz specifically for the event, the character was one of the most recognizable villains during the storyline, and also one of the few characters to survive the event’s conclusion. Unlike Beast, Dark Beast was a cruel, psychotic mad man who would experiment on humans and mutants alike, creating horrors in his path. His experiments would end at the end of the Age of Apocalypse story with the destruction of New York, but it was revealed that McCoy had survived when he and others were brought into the main timeline via the M`Kraan Crystal. However, because of the interference of Quicksilver, Dark Beast ended up travelling 20 years into the past with no memory of his true identity. He met a young Emma Frost who did help him recover some of those memories, and soon thereafter created the Morlocks. From there he stayed in hiding for a many years, his memories slowly coming back.
Shortly after the end of AOA, Dark Beast kidnaps the real Beast and infiltrates the X-Men. In order to keep up with the ruse, he murders many of Hank McCoy`s friends and family. When Onslaught was born, Dark Beast sided with him against the X-Men until Onslaught learned of Dark Beast`s reality where mutants had become the ruling race of the world. Onslaught then tried to destroy both races at that point, but was stopped by this Earth`s heroes, after which Dark Beast disappeared.
In the subsequent years Dark Beast had some run-ins with Generation X and other spin-off X-Teams but largely disappeared for much of the next decade. After House of M, Dark Beast and Beast finally come face to face, and reluctantly agree to work with each other to try to stop the impending extinction of the mutant race. This is short lived, as Dark Beast poisons one of the Guthrie children, resulting in a fight between the two Beasts, the true Beast winning through in the end.
Dark Beast would disappear again for a few more years, before re-emerging during the Dark Reign storyline as one of Norman Obsorn’s Dark X-Men, becoming one of his primary allies in the fight against the X-Men during the Utopia storyline. After Osborn’s fall during Siege, Dark Beast returned to the Morlock tunnels where he draws the attention of Spider-Man and the X-Men, eventually leading to his defeat and arrest.
While he was being transported to prison, X-Force approaches him to help cure Archangel of the darkness Apocalypse had infected him with so many years ago during Fall of the Mutants. The storyline (entitled The Dark Angel Saga) would take Dark Beast back to the AOA timeline, where he would help X-Force find a cure for Archangel. However, after a run-in with the Nightcrawler of that timeline, Dark Beast betrays them, stranding the group in the AOA universe and unleashing a now fully evil Archangel on the main Marvel Univserse.
After the conclusion of The Dark Angel Saga, Dark Beast would travel back to the AOA universe with that world’s Nightcrawler, which leads to the X-Termination storyline in which AOA was sealed off from the rest of the universe, after which Dark Beast is taken into custody by the authorities.
Dark Beast would return after Avengers vs X-Men, when the Phoenix Five’s powers began behaving erratically and were being attacked continuously by sentinels. Cylcops eventually comes to the conclusion that Beast is the one programming the Sentinels and goes to confront him at the X-Mansion. The mansion quickly comes under attack from Sentinels, and during the battle Dark Beast is revealed as the true mastermind behind the plot, and dies in the resulting battle. It is revealed that after all the years of experimenting on himself, Dark Beast’s body was left ruined, and with his death soon approaching he set out to destroy the X-Men once and for all. With his death, one of the last remnants from Age of Apocalypse died with him the Marvel Universe, and no one from that timeline had ever caused more pain and agony, and that is saying something for sure.
Dark Beast is one of my personal favourite villains for the X-Men. He is the ultimate dark reflection of one of the team’s most tenured members, the differences between the two so stark it’s almost sickening to see what Dark Beast is. While Henry McCoy is a good man who strives to make the world a better place, Hank McCoy is a sadist, conducting cruel experiments with zero thought for his victims. While Henry expands his knowledge to all possible avenues, Hank seeks to gather knowledge solely to serve himself. Dark Beast is almost a tragic story, but no matter what he could have been if Apocalypse hadn’t conquered his universe, the fact remains that he made a lot of people surfer, and in the end, he died because of his own selfishness and hate, and unlike so many villains in comic books, there was no redemption for him. Sad I realize, but villains aren’t meant to have happy endings, especially one as evil as Dark Beast.
Most Hated Son
Our first of our MUTANTS MUST DIE villains, Graydon Creed was created in 1993 by Scott Lobdell and Brandon Peterson. Creed’s origins are one of the rare instances of villains spawning another villain, but not as an ally. You see, Graydon is the illegitimate son of Mystique and Sabretooth, and was given up for adoption by the former after he was born. However, unlike most people born of mutants, he showed no mutant powers as he matured, lacking the Mutant X gene and being an ordinary human. When he learns that both his parents were mutants that had abandoned him, he began to foster a deep resentment towards Homo Superior, a resentment that turned to abject hatred by the time he had reached adulthood.
Once grown to a man, Graydon formed the group Friends of Humanity, an activist organization that would campaign against mutants and urge the government to take action against them. In reality, they were little more than terrorists, launching horrible attacks on peaceful mutants. When confronted with these crimes, Creed would state they were justified, and used actions of such mutant super-villains as Magneto, Mr Sinister, and others as examples of mutant violence that needed to be answered for.
Using his group as a private hit squad, Creed went after his parents. Both Mystique and Sabretooth would survive these attacks, but Creed would kill Birdy, his father’s assistant and telepath that the older Creed had employed to suppress his homicidal rages, undoing years of work by Victor and Professor X to rehabilitate the villain.
Creed’s biggest play against the mutant race came in the storyline Operation: Zero Tolerance. Creed would use Friends of Humanity as a platform to run for President of the United States. After what had happened with Onslaught, public opinion towards mutants had dropped horrendously, and Creed capitalized on this and created an anti-mutant frenzy that would lead to the capture of most of the X-Men. However, the night before the election, Creed was assassinated, though it was never truly revealed who fired the shot.
Years later, Creed would return, claiming that he faked his death. In truth, the Purifiers had retrieved his body and the Sentinel Bastion re-animated him to begin a war with the X-Men. That war would come during the Second Coming storyline, as the Purifiers waged a massive conflict with the X-Men to destroy Hope Summers. They would fail however, Creed killed by Hope during the final battle, and has not been seen since, his hateful life ending in failure.
Graydon Creed was somewhat of a reinvention of the MUTANTS MUST DIE villains of the X-Men. One part William Stryker, one part Senator Kelly, Creed was a monster born of monsters, the hate he harboured for his villainous mutant parents leading him to commit atrocities. His death was not one that I will grieve over, though there is always a chance that he will return one day and continue his quest to destroy the mutant race, though in what form or when is anyone’s guess.
The Worst is Yet to Come
Well, that’s it for part one. I didn’t want to make an official ranking with these articles, but trust me when I tell you that more great villains are on the way, these being only the appetizer as we dive into the long history of the X-Men’s greatest foes. Until next time True Believers, HAPPY COMICS!