Whether he’s messing around in the Summers gene pool, or messing around in, well, the entire mutant population’s gene pool, Mister Sinister — nee Nathaniel Essex — is one of the most enigmatic villains the X-Men have ever faced. He’s always got something up his sleeve, and that’s just a small part of his charm. In the latest addition to our Four-Color Faves series, I asked our guest, Jackie Brown, a few questions about her fabulous fave, Mister Sinister.
What is Mister Sinister up to now?
Mister Sinister is currently chilling at his Bar Sinister on Krakoa, drinking wine, and being on the Quiet Council as seen in HoX/PoX. He’s also popped up in Fallen Angels after Kwannon/Psylocke came to him for help. Which is a bad idea, but I’m just glad he might be a recurring character in a comic.
Where did you first meet the character and what has he come to represent for you?
I bought the trade paperback of the “Messiah Complex” comics storyline, and that is where I first saw him. It was really his appearance that stood out for me since I had NO clue who he was, his connection with anyone, or even really what was happening as I was still reading back issues of Claremont’s run. “Messiah Complex” was also my first foray into modern comics. He stood out for me, but it wasn’t until I got to “Inferno” that I really started to appreciate the character.
Well this is a toughie of a question. To me he represents all the good things I like about comic villains, when written and used well in a story that is. For me villains should have an impact on the story, and characters, even after they are not around, and not just be the generic bad guy the heroes have to defeat, the end. Sinister represents that. He is playing a long term game, manipulating players which later retcons show us he has been doing for over a century! He shapes and influences the heroes, notably Scott, Cable, Jean in some respects, Gambit, even Charles Xavier. Basically he has become a mutant’s worst nightmare, because he might have been there during your childhood and you NEVER KNEW. Sinister also is clearly a Claremont creation, first drawn by Silvestri, and it sure is unforgettable. Villains also should be interesting, and Mister Sinister’s evil scientist schtick, his thigh high boots, red eyes, and being overly dramatic make him a very interesting villain, if you like those things. Which I do, very, very much.
When he first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #221, he was a unique antagonist, but his backstory has since evolved tremendously. How do you feel about the origins and evolution of Mister Sinister?
First, I must say I am so glad Claremont’s original vision of Sinister’s origins never became canon of some immortal child being jealous of Scott growing up. I can’t imagine any other origin for Sinister than what we got in The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix. It’s a gothic tale about a man who is driven mad by grief, does unspeakable things, meets an ancient mutant, time travels, and ultimately decides to do the right thing in the end but it’s too late, and becomes the man we know as Mister Sinister. It’s tragic, dark, and provides some more depth with a character we already knew since he’s already been around from ‘89. I enjoy stories that show that tragedies, and trauma can warp someone, because it does. It doesn’t always make someone stronger, or better, it can destroy someone’s soul, which it does for Sinister or as he was known back then as Nathaniel Essex.
The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix is one my favorite mini series, and the art is gorgeous, fitting the tone of the story and its’ darkness. And it’s also revealed, surprise! Apocalypse made Sinister with Celestial tech which I guess explains his white skin, and the diamond; it’s Apocalypse’s marking. A big old stamp by Apocalypse. I am disappointed this is never really brought up again except briefly in the Twelve arc in the late ’90s, early 2000s. Since it was 1859 that Sinister is “born”, this does allow future writers to explore all the time in between then, and the present. And they sure do fill it up.
Sinister’s backstory has evolved to include so many X-Men or really, X-Men’s past have evolved to include Mister Sinister. Yay retcons! Those include; Gambit, Colossus, Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto, Sebastian Shaw, Victor Creed, I might be missing more. They all met Mister Sinister without either realizing it until much later, or being made aware of it by Sinister himself. If you’re a mutant in the 616 timeline, you might have met Mister Sinister and never realized it! How terrifying is that?!
Some of these retcons have worked, like X-Men Legacy, and Origin II. Sinister’s Cronus Project was devious, and deranged, which suits him just fine. And I do enjoy period pieces, and it was a nice mini series showing what Logan and Mister Sinister were up to for a brief period of time in 1907. Do we need more Wolverine stories? Not really, but hey this one had Mister Sinister, and he had a castle! I’m sold. With these retcons, you kinda can piece together how the character changed, adapted, and exploited the differing time periods. I find it all very fascinating. I can imagine Dr. Essex being involved in crimes against humanity in World War I. Weapon X volume 2 showed us in one horrific issue how opportunistic a monster Mister Sinister really is, and it adds layers to a character which for most of the early ’90s was an enigma with a flare for the dramatic.
Prior to Uncanny X-Men volume 2, Sinister was still very much the mad scientist, cold, ruthless, and still very much about mutants, studying and experimenting on them. That’s his schtick since Claremont made him in ‘89, and he hasn’t deviated from that much. He’s always had a theatrical side to him, but writer Kieron Gillen cranks up some of Sinister’s well established traits and boosts them tenfold. This Sinister brazenly kills tourists, and goes for a joyride in the head of the Dream Celestial, and terrorizes San Francisco with his clones.
In the movie Megamind, the main character tells the hero turned villain Titan, he isn’t a supervillain, but just a villain. The difference being PRESENTATION. And oh boy do we get that from this new grandiose Mister Sinister. Before Sinister had a more subdued gothic dramatic side to him, working in the shadows, after Gillen we got a more bombastic Mister Sinister, who clearly loves himself, and decided he is perfect, and the world SHOULD KNOW IT.
We see this continuation in Charles Soule’s and Ray Fawke’s Wolverines, and Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. Everything seems more extreme.Sinister has a room of Ben Reilly’s? A Thor-Fin-Fang-Foom? WHY? I dunno because he COULD. Baron Sinister is a snarky bitch who calls the law trashy, and insults a pregnant woman, after which he literally loses his head but continues to bicker and insult his opponent. Sinister has always been a talker, monologues are his thing. Hickman, Gillen, and a few others just added some more zing to his speeches.
Of course this doesn’t mean that Sinister’s new transformation stuck. Extraordinary X-Men saw a more subdued Mister Sinister, experimenting on mutant and Inhuman DNA after the Terrigen Mist killed and sterilized mutants. He was tossed into some villain group for a hot second, before running off and terrorizing the Inhumans some more, looking like some hipster professor. Matthew Rosenberg’s Uncanny X-Men run brought some of the sassmaster Sinister we got from Hickman, and Gillen. The Mister Sinister fire brigade was a fun touch; I want a calendar of that.
And finally we got to HoX/PoX, and Hickman has given us the current iteration of Mister Sinister, the tyrant killing fabulous, cape wearing Mister Sinister who sits on the Quiet Council against common sense. So far we haven’t had much except some smart-alecky remarks, gushing over Magneto’s cape (rightfully so), and annoying Exodus. Fallen Angels has him there, but not doing much except maybe playing weird therapist to Kwannon. Run girl! Run from him!
Claremont gave us the core of Mister Sinister, the melodramatic, thigh high boot wearing, obsessive mad scientist, who just loves making a scene. Over time those elements have been downplayed, or up-played. It comes down to what the writer wants from a character like Mister Sinister. And I think Hickman and hopefully others will continue evolving Sinister in fun and unique ways. As long as nobody writes him too straight, to dry, or stoic, and play to his strengths, the flare for the dramatic, his love of hearing himself speak, narcissism, and grandiose sense of self, they’ll be all right in my books. There is much to enjoy about Mister Sinister no matter the era you are looking at. If the story IS GOOD, often Mister Sinister is as well.
Sinister was initially known for his obsession with the Summers genetic line. Do you think this element of his character has been addressed well over the years? Why or why not?
This is a hard one to say. It all depends on who is writing the story and whether or not they like that element of Mister Sinister, or wish to explore the relationship between Sinister and Scott. The 90s has a lot of comics exploring Scott’s time in the Orphanage in Uncanny Origins #1 for example. We learn why, that Scott’s and Jean’s DNA will create a powerful mutant who can take down Apocalypse. His obsession all stemmed from his failed attempt of killing Apocalypse realizing the ancient mutant was mad and genocidal. We see this in Cable 1999 Annual, where we see Sinister’s betrayal of Apocalypse, and the origins of the techno organic virus that infected Cable, by Apocalypse. After Apocalypse’s defeat during the Twelve, and the Celestials taking him away, Sinister’s main core reason behind his obsession is gone. Narratively speaking, it does make sense that element of his, wanes. And that’s what we get from comics in the 2000s onwards. We still see the ramifications, Scott’s hatred,like his targeting of Sinister during the Phoenix Five arc.
I am still mad we never got ANYTHING after Uncanny X-Men #20, Sinister taunting Scott from prison basically wearing Valerie Cooper’s body, was such a great cliff-hanger that went NOWHERE. So I guess I can say in the past his obsession was well addressed, but as the years progressed, and the characters were passed from different hands, that once core element of his character was pushed aside, forgotten, or deemed irrelevant with a few exceptions like X-Men Legacy, Uncanny X-Men v2, Sinister’s Scott-Inhuman hybrid. If there is one definitely true evolution of Mister Sinister’s character, is him evolving PAST his obsession, but I generally think it’s just narrative choices writers have made. It was done, over with. Time to move both characters on. I would like to see it addressed in the newer comics.
I guess I can reasonably say it was well addressed in the past, but recently no, and seems to be something that stayed in the past. Sinister has moved on, the new obsession is himself, and capes. Maybe someone will bring up his past obsession, given that he and Scott are both on Krakoa. We see others be suspicious about Apocalypse, but what about Mister Sinister? So many have been harmed by that man, and yet nothing said? We may just have to wait and see.
What is your ideal image of this character and have any of his story arcs given you this?
My ideal image of Mister Sinister is what was given to me by Hickman and Esad Ribic during Secret Wars. And I hope that fabulous Sinister continues.
How do you feel about the implications and nature and future of his genetic manipulation, as seen in House of X/Powers of X?
It’s what he does best! Sinister without genetically manipulating, editing, and having secretive grand schemes would not be Mister Sinister. I’m frankly shocked we haven’t seen Sinister at work, except for a frame in Fallen Angels, but I wanna see him the laboratory, making sexy new mutant chimeras like Rasputin. I do hope we learn better about his defection, since Mister Sinister is a mutant supremacist and his betrayal felt really off, almost dumb. And Sinister doesn’t do things without a back plan, within another thousand back-up plans. Hopefully this might get addressed later on. Why would he destroy what was essentially his motivation for being? I have a lot of questions, but overall I’m enjoying what I have been given. His future actions were one possible future, maybe it will change, all this time altering stuff tends to boggle my mind.
Sinister now sits on the Quiet Council. What are your predictions about his future actions in this new dawn for mutants?
Cause problems, I hope. Mister Sinister is shown not to play well with others, unless it suits his purpose. Right now he’s unpredictable. I really can’t say what direction the comics will take him since he hasn’t actually done much. We know in one future he betrays them and “dies” (I don’t trust that; Sinister does not simply die). All I know is he will scheme, manipulate, and have a fun time doing it, drinking expensive wines and looking fabulous. I hope Hickman or whoever gets to play with him next gives him a meatier role and puts him out there as a major player in a future story arc. I am looking forward to Incoming! Sinister and Mojo together should be intriguing. TV deal? Perhaps.