Comic writers have a tendency to create characters with often outrageous superhero or supervillain names. They range from the simple, like “Wolverine,” to the obscure, like “M.O.D.O.K” (Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing). The aim here is obviously to give readers an impression of the character before they even have a chance to do or say anything, and it works best for epic villains who work from the shadows to further some malevolent plot.
For example, subtler than Apocalypse, and crueller than Sebastian Shaw, is the appropriately named Mr. Sinister. This 157-year-old villain was a biologist by the name of Nathaniel Essex back in Victorian London, when he came across the ancient Apocalypse who, interested in Essex’s work and obsession with Darwin’s theory of evolution, gave his human body mutant powers. Thus his journey as one of Marvel Comics’ creepiest villains began, and here are the 15 creepiest things about him.
15. He Values Scientific Experimentation Over Human Life
Evil geniuses in general tend to create the most devious of experiments in the name of science and a twisted sense of progress, which is why that quality alone is creepy enough to be listed. Sinister’s vile experimentations began long before he became the shadowy supervillain serving Apocalypse (on the surface). Having been a biologist, Essex’s interests are and always have been exploring mutations and Darwinian evolution.
What’s creepy isn’t the profession itself, so much as how far Essex was willing to go to complete his experiments. He was so cruel and terrible that his own wife refused to forgive him and unwittingly bestowed upon him the name “Sinister” with her last breath. And with good reason, too, because she discovered he was using the exhumed remains of their own dead son for some of his experiments (more on that later). For him, there was only science that mattered, though the death of his wife did turn him into an even colder, apathetic man.
14. He Tried To Kill Off Colossus’ Entire Bloodline
By virtue of being virtually immortal, Mr. Sinister is able to conduct the longest of long-term experiments on mutations by tracking gradual changes — and very often manipulating them — over the course of a person’s life. He does this so he can observe them as they develop over entire generations. He views the whole world as being ripe with fresh subjects for his experiments and he’s able to observe the development of his tests as no other scientist has done before.
One such test Sinister had been keeping tabs on is the Rasputin bloodline. At one point, Sinister’s powers were weakened and he knew that the mad monk Grigori Rasputin (the very same mad monk that helped spark the Russian Revolution of 1917) would be able to restore him. However, to do this, he needed Rasputin to reincarnate in one of the man’s descendants. In order to make Rasputin’s essence converge into a single host, he allied with Mikhail Rasputin, brother of the X-Man, Colossus, to kill off every other member of the Rasputin bloodline. Fortunately, Colossus was able to defeat them first.
13. He Was Responsible For The Mutant Massacre
If there’s one thing that anyone should know about Mr. Sinister, it’s that if you get in his way, you’re bound to end up dead. The problem is, characters usually don’t even know that they’re in his way. In “Mutant Massacre,” one of the largest crossovers back in 1986 and still one X-Men’s biggest events, a mutant team of assassins known as the Marauders massacred the underground community of the Morlocks.
While initially it seemed to essentially be an attack on the X-men, it was later revealed that Mr. Sinister had orchestrated it, purely because he’d found out that many of them were products of a student of his from the “Age of Apocalypse” alternate timeline called The Dark Beast. Years later, it was revealed that he had manipulated Gambit, AKA Remy LeBeau into leading his Marauders into the Morlock hideout beneath Manhattan, by promising to aid Gambit with his unstable powers. Remy had no idea just how much destruction he would unwittingly bring upon the mutant community.
12. He Watches From the Shadows
Mr Sinister possesses telekinetic and telepathic abilities, as well as the ability to teleport, shape-shift, and regenerate. But he’s a master manipulator so, rather than use these powers to battle directly, Sinister generally works from the shadows, watching his schemes play out to succession or failure. It makes sense, considering the large number of experiments he has going on at any given moment.
There’s an air of mystery constantly surrounding the character of Essex, which is why, even after you discover his sordid past, you can’t help but feel eerily unsettled by him, knowing that this cold, brooding, evil scientist, could be behind any single plot that disrupts or destroys the lives of the X-men, or innocents who made the fatal mistake of falling into his line of sight. With his knack for developing mutants’ powers, he’s the ultimate puppet master, pulling on a character’s strings that other puppet masters wouldn’t even think to look for, let alone attempt to pull on.
11. He Cloned Jean Grey, Namor And His Own Goons
Being a biologist and an immortal who has spent over a century studying genetics, Sinister has developed a level of understanding of the mutant genome that’s still considered sci-fi by real-life standards. Now couple that understanding with his willingness to play God and his megalomaniacal desire for power and the result is a series of evil clones.
The X-Men fought his Marauders various times, and quite a few of those times, the Marauders would lose their lives, only to later return renewed and at full strength. It wasn’t because Sinister was kind enough to save any of his thugs, so much as he’d saved samples of their DNA to clone them should his agents fail, which they did, several times. His clones weren’t perfect at first. For example, his clone of Sabretooth was notably weaker than the original and his “Experiment N2,” a clone of Namor, was quickly defeated by Captain America. His clone of Jean Grey did a bit better, though, but we’ll explore that in the next entry of this list.
10. His Obsession With Cyclops and Jean Grey’s DNA Led To Cable’s Birth
Throughout his appearances, he’s expressed a deep and obscure interest in the offspring of Cyclops and Jean Grey. The child that would be Cable would not have been born without Mr. Sinister’s intervention. It began with Cyclops going to a family reunion after his beloved Jean Grey had died (the first time). There, he met Madelyne Pryor, a cargo pilot in Alaska who happened to look exactly like Jean. The two fall in love, get married, and have a child. Cyclops then abandons his new family without a word when he learns that Jean Grey is alive. This eventually led to a clash between Jean and Madelyne that ended with Jean Grey inheriting traits and memories from her, as well as the maternal love for little Nate Grey.
The reason why all of this happened is Mr. Sinister wanted Cyclops to breed with Jean in order to create a new, powerful mutant capable of defeating Apocalypse one day. Since Jean had died, however, the only way he could do this would be to clone her, which is exactly what Madelyne Prior ended up being. Even aside from the child, Sinister has expressed continued interest into the Summers and Grey bloodlines for reasons yet unknown.
9. He Keeps Playing God
As any true evil genius, Sinister has a collection of test subjects, growing slowly in tanks. One such experiment was Xraven, who was created using DNA from Kraven the Hunter whom Sinister had hired to hunt down and extract DNA from the X-men. After a fight involving both Spider-Man and the X-Men, Sinister got what he wanted, yet did nothing with it until years later when he infiltrated the maximum security prison where Cletus Kasady was being held.
The two made a deal and Sinister walked away with a sample of the Carnage symbiote, from which he removed sentience in order to use it on whatever monstrosity he would create later. That monstrosity would eventually become Xraven, whom Sinister kept suspended in a tank as he waited for the right moment to use him. After the events of M-Day, when Scarlet Witch got rid of most mutants’ powers, Sinister finally activated Xraven and tasked him with getting DNA samples of those mutants who still had their powers.
8. He Worked for the Nazis
Sinister has been around for a long time, so it’s safe to assume that he’s travelled a lot. Both his experiments and travels have taken him to strange places, and he’s been involved with more than one historically significant place. Of course, being an unfeeling villain, as expected, he tends to side with the more brutal faction. In the case of WWII, that was the Third Reich. Mr. Sinister was shown to have worked with the Nazis as a scientist and it was there that he successfully cloned Namor, dubbing his creation “Experiment N2.”
Even there, due to his ghostly complexion and shadowy nature, the Nazis feared him. Whoever he picked from the prison camps would be taken away to his laboratory and never seen again. Some believed that he was actually freeing the prisoners, though the reality was that he was merely taking them to his own lab to perform his own sordid experiments on them, often transforming them into monsters.
7. He’s Been Stalking Cyclops For Decades
It was revealed that Scott Summers had actually been under the manipulation of Mr. Sinister since early in his childhood. For years he had been running a laboratory to study mutations manifesting in children, built beneath the State Home for Foundlings (an orphanage he owned in Nebraska). He went so far as to manipulate the psychological development of the children so that when they reached adulthood, he’d have an army of loyal minions under his command.
When he learned of Scott and Alex Summers’ plane crash, he immediately began studying the hospitalized Scott, creating the ruby-quartz glasses to stop him from destroying everything he set his sights on. When Scott recovered, Sinister had ensured the child would be placed in the State Home for Foundlings, where he would go un-adopted until Sinister was finished. The only reason why Sinister had to let him go was because a powerful mutant by the name of Charles Xavier had also discovered Scott and invited him to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.
6. He’s Earned a Number of Eerie Nicknames
Having done everything in his power to have earned them, Sinister, through his various aliases over the centuries, has earned a number of nicknames, all of which encompass every devious trait he’s ever shown. In the 1940s, while working for the Nazis, he would play Franz Schubert and offer candy to children in exchange for their blood. Couple this with his pale skin and tendency to pick out prisoners who would never be heard from again, and he deservedly earned the nickname of “Nosferatu” from the children of Auschwitz. He was even feared by the Nazi soldiers stationed there!
It would not be the last time his malevolent experiments would instantly draw parallels with the image of a demon. During the late 1960s, Sinister found himself in Vietnam with his associate, Scalphunter, a Native-American mutant whom he recruited to aid him in collecting both soldiers and villagers in Vietnam for use in his experiments. While the expression had already been around as a racist slur for decades, whenever Scalphunter referred to Sinister by the nickname “White Devil,” it was meant much more literally.
5. He Reincarnates In Other People’s Bodies
Most people plan for death by writing a will or at the very least, uttering their last wishes to a close friend or loved one. Not Sinister. Nathaniel Essex seemingly does not see himself permanently dying anytime soon, which is why all of his contingency plans rely on someone else inheriting his powers, his plans, his memories, his mind…him. His contingency plans rest on someone else’s body being used to aid him in reincarnation, as Professor Xavier discovered.
Sinister had plans to use him, Sebastian Shaw, and Juggernaut as potential hosts for this twisted resurrection, should Sinister ever find his body destroyed. At one point, Xavier lay dying, so he surrendered and became the new Mr Sinister. However, he discovered that Sinister had been manipulating his life for decades. Thanks to Sebastian Shaw and Gambit, Xavier was able to drive Sinister from his consciousness and regain control. However, that was far from the end of the diabolical Mr. Sinister.
4. He Made an Entire Cult Out Of His Own Clones
As if reincarnation wasn’t enough of a drastic measure, Sinister turned to what he knew best: cloning. Using the head of Tiamut, Sinister was able to reshape an entire section of San Francisco in his image, populating it with clones. When the X-Men arrived to stop him, they soon learned that his new ‘race’ was near impossible to kill. Fortunately, Emma Frost eventually found a way to stop his primary consciousness from allowing another clone to assume control.
Not as fortunately, even that was not enough to stop this new cult of Sinisters. A new community emerged, immune to Emma Frost‘s psychic attacks. They went on to actually steal the Museum of Fine Arts and allow a Phalanx (a member of a techno-organic race) to wreak incredible amounts of destruction in an attempt to reconnect with the rest of its race. Finally the Sinisters decided to hide themselves underground in a replica of Victorian London, populated only by the clones.
3. He’s Experimented on His Dead Son
As mentioned earlier, Nathaniel Essex was a brilliant biologist and maniacal scientist who experimented on his own son. He was married then and they had son together, Adam, who suffered from haemophilia and crooked bones. Eventually, and tragically, this led to the boy’s death at the age of four. As it would for anyone, the death of his son had a profound effect on Essex, who was driven even deeper into his studies on evolution and genetics.
In his mind, science was beyond morality, while morality was a social construct that had been holding scientists back. While those around him urged him to seek help in his grievance, Sinister refused and went so far as to say that if becoming a monster was what it took for scientific progress, that’s what he would become. The more distant he became, the more Rebecca Essex, his wife, became curious about his work. She explored his lab and found that, on top of experimenting on the outcasts of society, Nathaniel had also exhumed his own dead son’s body and stored it in an incubation tube after having completed his experiments on the corpse.
2. He Genuinely Enjoys His Cruelty
While much of his origin could draw a certain amount of empathy from the reader, the character he has become leads most to be repulsed and appalled by him. After the death of his wife, Sinister grew cold and ceased caring at all for life or for the wellbeing of others. For then on, there was only science and progress in the name of power and immortality. He’s dedicated his entire life to this cause and the cost of it has grown high for everybody. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives have been affected by his schemes and dozens have been destroyed by his experiments.
The worst part of it all is that, after having served Apocalypse for so long, it’s become apparent that he actually enjoys the experiments and the pain they cause. That’s in huge contrast to his former self where, in the beginning, he had sought to devote his life to his family instead of his misguided views on progress. When faced with his wife’s final moments, he begged for forgiveness for everything he had done, but it’s clear that he hasn’t even begun to try atoning for anything.
1. His Gave His Girlfriend Stockholm Syndrome
A lot of people have a difficult time when it comes to showing someone that they care about them. Sinister takes it to a whole other level though, easily being one of the creepiest and taking the, like his namesake, most sinister paths to do it. Long after his wife’s death, Sinister spent time experimenting in California where he met and became fixated on a radio star named Faye Livingston. One night, she discovered his lab and experiments, so he decided he’d reveal everything. He told her that she carried the X-gene and that the child she produced would possess power no human could imagine.
When Faye attempted to leave, Sinister imprisoned her and performed cruel experimentation on her until she finally broke. One stormy night, he opened her cell door and allowed her to walk free without saying a word. Yet, even after all that, Faye loved Sinister and never married or bore children. Sinister, in turn, would visit her on occasion under the alias, “Mister Essex.”
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