When fans discuss villains that have been left out of comic book movies, there are always a select few that tend to pop up in the discussions: Sentinels from the X-Men, Kraven from Spider-Man, Brainiac from Superman, just to name a few (On a side note, I assure you those and many others will be covered in this series). But there is another X-Men baddie that is almost always at the top of the list: Mister Sinister. This guy is among the worst of the worst and he knows this. His obsession with Jean Grey and Scott Summers is down-right disturbing and can be a rather unnerving at times. Match this psychosis with his enhanced mutant abilities and you have yourself a rather formidable foe that has been overlooked far too long. One thing I find interesting about Sinister is the basis behind his creation. One of the biggest complaints that fans have regarding the X-Men film franchise is the fact that Magento has been the main villain for a majority of the movies and they feel it’s time to move on to someone new. Well, writer Chris Claremont felt the same way, saying that he was “tired of just going back to Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the same old same old.” Claremont explains further:
“Dave Cockrum and I were over ideas and what we were coming towards was a mysterious young boy – apparently an 11-year-old – at the orphanage where Scott (Cyclops) was raised, who turned out to be the secret master of the place. In effect what we were setting up was a guy who was aging over a lifespan of roughly a thousand years. Even though he looked like an 11-year-old, he’d actually been alive since the mid-century at this point – he was actually about 50. He had all the grown up urges. He’s growing up in his mind but his body isn’t capable of handling it, which makes him quite cranky. And, of course, looking like an 11-year-old, who’d take him seriously in the criminal community? So he built himself an agent in a sense, which was Mister Sinister, that was, in effect, the rationale behind Sinister’s rather – for want of a better word – childish or kid-like appearance. The costume… the look… the face… it’s what would scare a child. Even when he was designed, he wasn’t what you’d expect in a guy like that.”
In the “Classic X-Men” run, the above story was hinted at, with a boy named Nathan in the Nebraskan orphanage where Summers was also living. Nathan had a very strong fixation with Summers and Claremont intended to reveal this boy as Sinister, but when he left the X-Men, it was never revealed in-story. A rather interesting concept. Of course, the character grew to be a quite menacing threat to Scott and his future companion Jean Grey, and the X-Men in general. The more familiar back story of Nathaniel Essex begins in the 19th Century, when another, even more villainous baddie, Apocalypse, visited Essex and using his advanced technology, Apocalypse transformed Essex into “Sinister.” The name, by the way, comes from the last word that Essex’s wife ever spoke to him.
Not long after this event, a time displaced Gambit and Courier went to Sinister for help in returning to their own time. Essex agreed, but in exchanged asked for a DNA sample from Courier, who had an ability to control every cell in his body, giving him the ability to shape-shift. the power is so strong, he is able to alter himself to the point that mutant scanners over look him. This DNA sample allowed Sinister to replicate the ability and give himself the immense power. By the early 20th century, Essex had cracked the genetic genome and shared his findings with Herbert Edgar Wyndham, who later became the High Evolutionary.
During the second world war, Sinister was recruited by the Nazis and collected massive amounts of blood samples for more research. It was during this time that Essex encountered the Sub-Mariner, after whom he created a clone. The clone, called N2, had occasional success in defeating the original Namor, but was ultimately defeated by Captain America.
Fast forward a few years to more present times and Sinister has yet another encounter with the Ragin’ Cajun, Gambit. This time, Gambit is recruited to gather the group known as the Marauders and abolish the underground group of mutants the Morlocks. This event would have adverse effects on Gambit in his future and cause him much pain and anguish. Sinister’s obsession with Jean Grey and Cyclops was also very prevalent at this time. Essex cloned Grey, in the form of Madelyne Pryor so that Cyclops would have a child with her and in his mind, create the ultimate mutant. However, Summers rejected Pryor when Jean Grey returned from stasis. The child that was conceived was taken to the future, and after some time would return to present time as Cable. Sinister’s work would eventually lead to an event called “Inferno” where Cyclops thought he had killed Essex with an optic blast, but Sinister resurfaced alive and well and revealed that there was actually a third Summers brother. During the “X-Cutioner’s Song” run, Sinsiter impersonates the powerful Apocalypse and uses the Four Horsemen to capture Jean Grey and Cyclops. In exchange for samples of his DNA, the pair are turned over to Stryfe, but Essex finds that the canister is empty and unknowingly releases the deadly Legacy Virus. Soon after, Sinister confronts Cyclops to reveal what the canister actually held and during this conversation, Sinister said, “I care enough to wish you and your brothers to be protected from this illness” but quickly corrected himself to say “brother.”
Sinsiter joined the re-established Weapon X Program, the group that is responsible for the creation of Wolverine, as Dr. Robert Windsor. He claimed to be assisting mutants who had been placed in the concentration camps known as Neverland, when in actuality, he was taking them to be his own test subjects.
Mister Sinister’s encounters and interactions with the X-Men are very numerous, so I could go on for some time discussing them, but I think you get the idea with how twisted and, well, sinister this guy can be. In a world where grit and darkness are the preferred look and feel for comic book movies, it only seems natural for Fox to do the same with the X-Men films. Although it may not seem like it, Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class was a step in that direction and now that we know Days of Future Past will be the basis of the upcoming sequel, it only seems natural that Sinister be included. The story features time travel, Sentinels and Cable, so what better time to bring Sinister into the mix than now?
When discussing this character, there is usually one name that almost always gets mentioned. Jason Isaacs has played numerous baddies in film and when he does, he goes full steam. Most recently, he starred as Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and he owned the screen anytime he was on it. His ability to portray arrogance is uncanny and his menacing air only adds to the character. One of his other more deviant roles was Col. William Tavington, opposite Mel Gibson, in The Patriot. The character was very similar to Malfoy in his arrogance and once again, Isaacs portrayed it with ease. I’d have no problem with Isaacs stepping into the role of Nathaniel Essex, but let me toss one more name out there for you: Michael Wincott. Most folks know him for playing Top Dollar in The Crow, but he also had parts in Interview With the Vampire and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. He is a lesser known actor, but that doesn’t make him any less awesome. In all of the roles I just listed, Wincott, like Isaacs, embraced the badness of them and played them with ease. Not to mention, that voice. If you were to tweak that voice just a bit, it would take the usual raspiness and turn it into something close to terrifying.
If you have a favorite villain you’d like to see highlighted in The Neglected Nemesis, be sure to let me know!