Yesterday, news broke that it appears as though Deadpool 2 might be nearing towards casting the main villain for Deadpool 2, and that that main villain might just be longtime X-Men villain, Black Tom Cassidy. While that is all well and good, we’re sure that many of you might hear that and say, “Black Tom who?” so we’re going to kindly fill you in on the history of one of the odder X-Men villains (and also one half of one of the all-time great supervillain partnerships).
In X-Men #101 (by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Frank Chiaramonte), Jean Grey had seemingly just transformed into the Phoenix for the first time after saving the lives of all of her teammates by safely landing a spacecraft into a bay off the coast of New York City. While she was recovering, the other members of the team needed something to do, so Storm, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler accompanied their teammate, Banshee, to Ireland where it turned out that he owned a castle (Cassidy Keep). Once there, though, they were attacked by Banshee’s cousin, Black Tom Cassidy (Banshee’s real name was Sean Cassidy) and his new pal, a former nemesis of the X-Men, the Unstoppable Juggernaut! Black Tom’s powers allowed him to focus energy blasts through wood. He carried around a shillelagh (a thick, blunt Irish stick, often used as a weapon) for that very reason.
In the end, the X-Men were able to defeat Cassidy and Juggernaut. The villains came back and took another crack at the X-Men in X-Men #122 (by Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin), where they hired the villainous Arcade to try to kill them. After that failed, the two best felonious friends (BFF for short) fought against Spider-Woman and the X-Men in the pages of Spider-Woman #37-38 (a book also being written by Chris Claremont in the early 1980s), but guess what – they had a new partner, a young female version of Banshee known as Siryn!
However, as it turned out, she was just an impressionable young woman who fell under the spell of Black Tom, her first cousin once removed who had raised her since she was a baby. Her real father, who she never knew, was, sure enough, Banshee! Black Tom felt guilty about dragging Siryn into his life of crime, so he sent her to go live with her real father, and he wrote a note to Banshee explaining it all.
Years later, Chris CLaremont would spend a back-up story in Classic X-Men (art by John Bolton) explaining the relationship between Black Tom Cassidy and Banshee. You see, Tom hated Sean because Sean seemingly had everything. He had won their ancestral castle in a game of chance with Tom and he had also won the heart of a local girl that they both were in love with, Maeve (Tom loved her so much that when he had an opportunity to make her think that Sean had ditched her for a date, he couldn’t lie to her).
Sean and Maeve got married and then Sean became an agent for Interpol and while he was on a deep undercover operation, Maeve became pregnant and gave birth to their daughter, Theresa. Maeve was then killed in an IRA bombing. When Sean came home, he attacked Tom for letting Maeve die. Sean was so angry that he decided not to let Sean know that Sean was a father. Sean left Ireland and moved to the United States and Tom raised Theresa.
Tom and Juggernaut continued on as a pair of contract criminals, doing crimes here and there and generally enjoying a life of villainy (one of their crimes led to the epic tale of Spider-Man fighting the Juggernaut for the life of Madame Web in Amazing Spider-Man #229-230, the famous “Nothing Stops the Juggernaut” story). Things changed, however, during a battle against X-Force, who were working alongside Siryn and Spider-Man. In the battle, Cable cornered Black Tom and decided that he wasn’t going to bother arresting him and instead just shot him a number of times…
This was where Black Tom first met Deadpool, as Deadpool showed up and saved his life, but only because Deadpool’s employer at the time, the mysterious Mister Tolliver (who eventually turned out to be Cable’s estranged son from the future), wanted him saved.
Black Tom survived, but only through a process where he had wood grafted on to his body where he was shot. However, the wood wasn’t stopping at just where he was injured. It was instead slowly spreading and taking control of his entire body. He needed some way to stop this, and he found out that one way would be to use Deadpool’s healing powers to heal his body and stop the spread of the wood “disease.” This led to Deadpool’s second miniseries ever (by Mark Waid and Ian Churchill), where Deadpool’s hand was severed and attached to Black Tom and it did, indeed, stop the spread of the wood.
Banshee and Siryn showed up to help Deadpool, and Deadpool and Siryn began a long relationship (built mostly upon him obsessing over her). It is likely this story that inspired the makers of Deadpool 2 to have Black Tom be the villain in the upcoming movie, as you could easily see him being a villain who is trying to steal Deadpool’s healing powers (by the way, the Black Tom miniseries was the first one that showed what Deadpool looked like underneath his mask).
The healing powers only served to slow down the spread of the wood, however, and soon Black Tom was completely transformed into a wooden creature. The process also served to drive him insane. He formed a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and had Juggernaut go undercover as a new member of the X-Men to work against the X-Men from within. Juggernaut, however, began to reform, especially when he befriended a young mutant named Sammy. Juggernaut planned to work as a triple-agent, pretending to go along with the Brotherhood so he could help the X-Men, but Sammy discovered him with Black Tom and the other villains and Sammy freaked out. Black Tom then used his new wood powers to brutally murder Sammy in front of the Juggernaut…
After the House of M, when the Scarlet Witch wiped out most of the mutants on Earth, Black Tom lost his new powers and returned to normal. The current mode of thinking is that whatever crimes he committed while as a full wooden creature were not him. This was something Claremont came up with when Black Tom fought Juggernaut in New Excalibur to explain how Tom could do something so cruel.
Black Tom and Juggernaut are back to BFFs again. They just fought X-Men Blue recently…
Black Tom Cassidy would be an off-kilter choice for a movie villain, but Deadpool certainly does off-kilter well.