- Name: Nathanial Essex
- Code Names: Mister Sinister
- First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #221 (Sept ‘87)
- Powers: Telepathy, shapeshifting
- Team Affiliation: Marauders, Nasty Boys
There is a famous line in Jurassic Park, one that has lost some of its’ impact thanks to the internet, but one that still resonates. Dr. Ian Malcolm, looking at the horror that this experiment had wrought said, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Science without morals or without accounting for repercussions can lead to horrific acts in the name of knowledge. As a people, we have an obligation to decide what cost we are willing to pay for knowledge. For Mister Sinister, that cost is anything.
Before he was the monstrous Mister Sinister, he was simply a biologist named Nathanial Essex. He lived in London with his wife Rebecca and their son Adam and worked to advance the theories of his hero Charles Darwin. Tragedy struck when Adam’s birth defects caught up to him and he died at the age of four. He coped by turning to his work, he thought Darwin dreamed too small. Essex believed that these evolutionary mutations could happen, not just over thousands of years, but in one or two generations. More than that, he thought these mutations could be forced and within them would be the keys to eternal life.
Essex presented this theory to The London Royal Society, a group of his scientific peers that included Darwin, complete with models made from the spliced corpses of humans and animals. They vehemently rejected him, calling him an abomination and thinking the death of his son had driven him mad. Essex didn’t care for their morality, he was beyond simple descriptions like good and evil, and he continued his research in secret. He hired marauders to kidnap vagabonds and penniless souls, the outcasts no one would miss, and used them as unwilling test subjects in the tunnels of London. These experiments attracted the attention of En Sabah Nur, the first one, the mutant known as Apocalypse.
Apocalypse affirmed Essex’s theories and gave him an offer. He would use his Celestial technology to mutate Essex into something more than human. For this new body, Essex chose a new name, one inspired by what his wife Rebecca said he had become. Essex entered the machine, and Sinister exited. However, Sinister’s end goal was different from Apocalypse’s. Where En Sabah Nur wanted only the strong the survive, Sinister saw no value in this. There was still so much to learn from this race and no reason to eliminate them. Sinister betrayed Apocalypse and stopped him from overtaking the world.
Sinister spent the century on his own schemes. He studied a wild man in Canada that he believed to be a mutant, he worked with the future High Evolutionary to understand the human genetic code, and when the Nazi’s conquest of Europe began, Sinister found resources to continue his inhuman experiments. He worked with Josef Mengele and brutally experimented on captive children at Auschwitz. He took interest in US programs studying mutation and entered the Vietnam conflict where he found mutant enforcers to work for him. He studied bloodlines that he believed to be ripe for mutation, but none interested him more than that of the Summer’s family.
After an accident led to the apparent death of their parents, Sinister arranged for Scott and Alex Summers to be taken to an orphanage he ran in Nebraska. He split the two apart and experimented on Scott in secret, tormenting him. Scott was the key, he would be the father of the strongest mutant in history. The boy eventually escaped to the care of Charles Xavier but Sinister knew it was for the best. Sinister had seen another of Xavier’s wards, a young woman named Jean Grey. He believed the offspring of Summer’s and Grey would be worth waiting for and was content to wait.
While waiting he created a clone of Jean to study her structure. What he didn’t anticipate was the death of Jean, though he knew he could use it to his advantage. He created a fake name, a fake history, a fake life for this clone and placed her on a collision course with Scott. Madelyne didn’t know about her secret history with Sinister, she just knew she loved Scott Summers, all according to plan. They married and soon had a son, as Sinister witnessed years of preparation be fully realized. He sent his Mauraders to kill Madelyne and capture the child, removing any trace that the child ever existed. Sinister studied the boy, planning to use him as a pawn for his own needs. When Madelyne discovered this, she didn’t take it well. She had been driven mad by the loss of her son and struck a deal with a devil named N’astirh to give her dark magiks, and turned her sights on her creator. She stole her son from Sinister and planned to sacrifice him in a plan to unleash hell on earth.
The X-Men stopped her plan, they always do, but they returned to the mansion to find Mister Sinister waiting for them. They fought, he died, everything seemed wrapped up with a nice bow. However, nothing with Sinister is as simple as it appears. He reappeared with his new group of cronies, The Nasty Boys, to battle the new government X-Factor team. He later captured Scott Summers and Jean Grey and traded them to Stryfe for the Genetic Matrix, the key to unlocking all mutant genetics. Stryfe double crossed Sinister and instead sent him a canister containing the Legacy Virus, a disease that targeted mutant kind. Sinister wasn’t content to see this race die out and used his vast resources to research a cure. Where some researchers like Beast or Moira MacTaggart were bound by ethics, Sinister had no qualms about imprisoning infected mutants to study them.
No sooner was one crisis solved than another welled up. The Scarlet Witch cursed the world and eliminated the X-Gene from 99.9% of the mutant population. To see his life’s work disappear thanks to the temper tantrum of some sorceress was unacceptable to Sinister and he resolved to reverse the spell. He reformed his Marauders, even enlisting the X-Men Gambit and Sunfire to his cause, and searched for the Destiny Diaries, a record of prophecy that would guide the mutant rebirth. Sinister’s work couldn’t continue without new test subjects, and he got that when the first mutant child was born after M-Day. He sent his Marauders to capture the baby and they were successful, however, Sinister put too much trust in his new allies. He had partnered with Mystique to capture the child but she betrayed him, snapping his neck and taking the baby for her own needs.
Mister Sinister had planned for this eventuality, he knew one of his many enemies would assume death could stop him. His death activated a contingency plan, one generations in the making. Years ago, he manipulated the Shaw, Xavier, and Marko family genetics to allow him to take over the bodies of their children. He attempted to overtake Charles Xavier, even succeeding for a moment, but Sebastian Shaw and Gambit were able to stop the possession from becoming permanent. It was not his only backup plan, as his death activated a virus he implemented in a woman named Claudine Renko who became a female genetic clone named Miss Sinister. Miss Sinister watched over the care of other clones of Nathanial Essex, one of which became a suitable host for Sinister to be reborn. Sinister would be forever.
Having conquered death itself, Sinister turned his ambitions to giving the world the perfect genetics, his. He stole the head of the Dreaming Celestial and transformed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco into a temple to the finest art of all, his genes. There, thousands of clones of Sinister served in a kingdom of Sinister, if one Sinister died another would take his place. He was auto-creating a perfect Frankenstein. He battled the X-Men there, but it was all a ploy to gather information for his true goal. The recreation of an underground world of Sinister. He lured the Phoenix Five into the city and captured them, intent on using their abilities for his own ends. The Phoenix Force is not so easily tamed and the Five utterly destroyed everything Sinister.
Sinister survived by possessing the X-Men’s PR representative and began to rebuild. He captured Wolverine’s body to study it after his death and continued other pursuits. When the M-Pox crisis was attacking the mutant world, Sinister looked for a solution. He spliced mutant and Inhuman DNA to find a superior race. He created a Cylops/Inhuman hybrid that went mad and attacked New York but the X-Men were able to stop it. Even after the Terrigen Mists were destroyed, Sinister saw potential in their application. He has begun to capture Inhuman children for his own experiments. His end goals are not yet known, but we can be sure they are something sinister.
Sinister has been a part of a lot of fun stories over the years but for sheer enjoyment and density of Sinister, nothing beats Kieron Gillen’s Uncanny X-Men. This renovation of Sinister distills the character to his most enjoyable. Pacheco designs a world dedicated to Sinister and it is an absolute delight to look at. A must read that you can pick up for cheap.
Sinister isn’t the X-Men’s best foe, but he is pretty close. He has a great look, interesting personality, and a driven motivation that allows him to be unpredictable. Unlike Apocalypse, Sinister has a defined plan and actually works as the active antagonist. He isn’t as complex as he greatest creation, Cable, but I think writers have done more interesting things with him than Warpath. That puts Mister Sinister as the new number 17 in the Xavier Files.
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Make sure you check out my podcast BATTLE OF THE ATOM. It’s where Bish & Jubez creator Adam Reck and I talk about every single X-Men story that ever existed and rank them from best to worst. Episode 16 is up and we got a chance to talk to Dennis Hopeless about Jean Grey, Secret Wars, and a whole lot more. Make sure you subscribe to any of the following platforms (or others, I’m not picky) Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS.
Next week we divebomb into our emotions with Archangel! See you then!