- Name: Mortimer Toynbee
- Code Names: Toad
- First Appearance: X-Men #4 (March ‘64)
- Powers: Jumps good, long tongue, weird spit, experiences lightning the same way everything else does
- Teams Affiliation: Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, The Misfits, The Hellfire Academy
My son is eighteen months old and is really into Disney’s 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast. I’ve seen the opening 20 minutes at least 40 times in the month since it came out on Bluray. In it, you are introduced to the powerful and confident war-hero Gaston and his sycophantic lackey LeFou. LeFou does anything Gaston wants, and Gaston’s flippant treatment of LeFou would eventually push his biggest fan away. Throughout media, the villain’s lackey is the most visible example of just how much of a jerk the villain is. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, never ones for subtlety, decided that Magneto’s toadie should be a visual manifestation of this trope and gave us Toad.
The English born Mortimer Toynbee had a troubled childhood. While his mutant abilities wouldn’t manifest until adolescence, his disfigurement was there from the start. He was a short, round man with a blemished face who no one wanted to be around. His parents abandoned him and the orphans were horrible to him. They called him stupid, they called him ugly, they called him a freak. One man saw potential in him. He told Mortimer that he was part of something special, he was homo superior. Mortimer Toynbee took the mutant name Toad and followed Magneto to the bitter end.
Magneto created his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants with Toad, Mastermind, and the twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. Toad became obsessed with the Scarlet Witch, almost as much as he was obsessed with Magneto. Magneto brought his Brotherhood to the South American nation of Santo Marco and took over the country handily. The X-Men stopped them and Toad blamed everything on infighting in the group. Magneto was unmoved by his plea and began to verbally abuse Toad. While some members of the Brotherhood would never stand of that, Toad had nowhere else to go.
Toad stayed loyal to Magento through most of the Silver Age until the master of magnetism was captured by The Stranger. Toad was left rudderless. He tried seducing the Scarlet Witch but her new Avengers teammates thwarted him. He tried to get revenge on the X-Man Angel, but he lost time and time again. Toad decided it was time to end it all. Life as a toadie wasn’t worth living. He walked to the ledge of a building in Manhattan and readied himself to jump.
As he stepped off the ledge, egged on by unsympathetic onlookers, Mortimer was snatched up by your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Toad was moved by Spidey’s compassion and decided to make himself Spider-Man’s new partner. Spider-Man was less than pleased with the turn of events but Toad wasn’t sure why. Toad had been told that he was clingy, but he really didn’t see it. Another person was upset that Spider-Man had a high hopping partner and Frog-Man, son of the supervillain Lead-Frog, came to exact his vengeance. The amphibious men battled as a confused Spidey tried to control the damage. The brawl only got worse when the Spectacular Spider-Kid tried to claim that he was the best qualified Spider-Partner. Spider-Man’s level head final prevailed and he inadvertently convinced the rotund character to form a new super squad known as the Misfits.
Eventually, Toad realized that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb, and left the Misfits to form his own Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Toad played the long game with this plan, working with Gideon of the Externals to take down the newly formed X-Force. He blackmailed Karl Lykos into once again becoming Sauron and formed an alliance with Masque of the Morlocks. The Brotherhood surprised X-Force at their base and was even able to critically injure Cannonball but they were soundly defeated in the end.
Toad kept a low profile until he learned about Magneto’s death and the destruction of Genosha. He took a pilgrimage to the island and leading the charge to build a monument there in honor of Magneto. When Xorneato revealed his master plan to rule the world, Toad stood loyally by. Not questioning why his master was now brutally murdering hundreds of humans. When the X-Men can to the rescue, as they are want to do, Toad leaped into action, only to be shot in the knee by Fantomex. Toad snuck away before Xorneato’s death and avoided the reproductions of his actions.
After M-Day, Toad briefly joined the mutant refugee camps on the lawn of the X-Mansion and left when they were set free during the Civil War. He followed the mutant nation to San Francisco and participated in the riots against Norman Osborn’s rule. He even joined the X-Men on Utopia during the Nimrod attack of the Second Coming. When the X-Men divided, Toad begged Wolverine to take him in and he became the janitor at the Jean Grey School.
Most people didn’t appreciate Toad’s work at the school. They saw him as unworthy of their attention. Everyone except Husk. She had been struggling to keep her personality under control when she shed her skin and Toad was willing to listen to her. He fell in love. When Husk left to join the Hellfire Academy, Toad too turned villain and followed her. He helped Quentin Quire take down the organization from the inside, but the X-Men were done giving him second chances and fired him. Husk took pity on him. She didn’t remember much of their relationship, a side effect of her powers, but she could see that he really cared for her. She offered to take him out of coffee, but Toad knew that deep down, he was as much a monster on the outside as the inside. He couldn’t put Husk through that. So he ran off into the sunset, wanting to hurt her now rather than let hew down later.
Toad took the outbreak of M-Pox harder than most. He was confused, depressed, and as far as he knew, a terrorist who used to beat him up attacked the life blood of another race. Anti-mutant sentiment was fiercer than ever, and Toad couldn’t hide. He turned to the bottle, and, after months, he developed a plan. He found the teenage Cyclops and captured him in the catacombs of Paris. If he killed this Cyclops now, wouldn’t that fix everything? He beat Scott within an inch of his life, but the X-Man escaped. And Toad was left alone in the dark.
My recommendation was this close to being Amazing Spider-Man #266, where Toad and Frog-Man fight for Spider-Man’s love, but it doesn’t encompass what Toad has traditionally been. X-Men: Evolution did though. That series portrayal of the Brotherhood is the best realization of the team, Toad included. Toad is just an unloved, dirty kid following the only people to give him a second look. The Brotherhood in that series is just the X-Men without any mentorship or support. They live in a rundown house, only have each other, and are more interested in being left alone than taking over the world. Plus Toad gets his own theme song where they spell out his name. Pick up the first Toad-centered episode on Amazon!
Villains, especially members of villain teams, are hard to rank. They are often less characters than they are one-note obstacles. Thanks to a history that stretches further than almost anyone, Toad has been given chances to live in the limelight more, but he is still largely defined by being a pathetic toadie. I like him less than a villain like Omega Red, but more than his fellow Brotherhood member Mastermind. I don’t think he is an interesting as Surge or Shatterstar but his history ranks him higher than a footnote like Skullfire. That places Toad as the new number 60 in the Xavier Files.
Toad was requested by Matt Ashfield from Patreon, among others. Thank you for the request. If you have a request for how about you send it below? If you want to cut to the front of the two-year long line like Matt did, we have a Patreon you can support Xavier Files for just $1 to get a line cutting reward.
Next week I test my luck with Domino! See you then!