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It should come as no surprise that when the mutant shapeshifter Mystique made her first appearance in Marvel Comics' Ms. Marvel #16 (April 1978), she was in disguise. Writer Chris Claremont introduced her as a normal-looking woman with shape-changing powers and later identified her as Raven Darkholme, the deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Planning Agency in the U.S. Defense Department. That may be her real name, but it was not until issue #18 (June 1978) that artist Jim Mooney drew her in her true form, with bright red hair, yellow eyes, and blue-gray skin. Mystique can psionically manipulate the molecules of her own body and her clothing in order to alter her appearance. Thus she can create new identities for herself or impersonate other people. She cannot increase or decrease her own mass at will; hence, when she once impersonated spymaster Nick Fury, she did not weigh as much as the real Fury. Mystique can fly by giving herself wings. Otherwise, she cannot duplicate the superpowers of people she impersonates. Among the many identities Mystique has created for herself are billionaire recluse B. Byron Biggs; Mallory Brickman, the wife of a U.S. senator; and supermodel Ronnie Lake. These identities not only enable Mystique to hide from her enemies but also give her positions of influence in society and political circles. Mystique's mutant power greatly retards her aging, so how long she has lived remains a mystery. Her relationship with the blind precognitive mutant Destiny goes back at least to the 1930s. Though Claremont did not make it explicit, he implied that Mystique and Destiny were lovers. In fact, in the 1930s Mystique adopted a male identity, “Mr. Raven,” as Destiny's companion. Mystique loyally remained with Destiny until the latter's death. (Destiny's real name is allegedly Irene Adler, but there is no evidence that she is the Irene Adler of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.) Yet Mystique has hardly been monogamous. In the 1960s, in her guise as German spy Leni Zauber, she had an affair with the mutant Sabretooth and bore his son, the late Graydon Creed. Ironically, Graydon Creed was not only a “normal” human, but he became a political demagogue attacking the “mutant menace.” Another of her sexual liaisons was with a German count who was actually a demon in human form. When she gave birth to his inhuman-looking son, Nightcrawler, she tried to kill the infant by throwing him over a waterfall. Thus, Mystique's physical resemblance to Nightcrawler of the X-Men is no coincidence. Mystique and Destiny took in the teenage girl Rogue after she ran away from home upon discovering her mutant power. Rogue came to regard Mystique as her foster mother and joined in her criminal activities. Nonetheless, distraught by her inability to control her power, Rogue eventually abandoned Mystique to seek help from Professor Charles Xavier and joined his mutant team, the X-Men. Mystique first publicly revealed herself as a mutant when she led her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (a new version of Magneto's team) in a terrorist attempt to assassinate Senator Robert Kelly, as chronicled in Chris Claremont and John Byrne's classic storyline “Days of Future Past” in The Uncanny X-Men #141–#142 (1981). Kelly advocated that the government take action against the potential threat posed by the emerging mutant population; Mystique believed that by killing Kelly she was striking a blow for mutants' freedom. The other members of her Brotherhood included Destiny, the Blob, Avalanche, and Pyro. The X-Men thwarted the assassination attempt, in the first of their many clashes with Mystique and her Brotherhood. As the U.S. government's covert anti-mutant program, “Project: Wideawake,” gathered strength, Mystique realized it had become too dangerous for her to continue her terrorist activities. Hence, she offered her services and those of the Brotherhood as special operatives to the federal government. The president accepted Mystique's proposal, and the Brotherhood was renamed Freedom Force. Ironically, this decision gave Mystique the government's blessing to continue battling the X-Men, who were officially regarded as outlaws. Thus began a continuing pattern in which Mystique alternates between promoting terrorism and (reluctantly) serving the forces of order, reflecting the shifting interpretations of the character by Marvel writers and editors over the years. Following the collapse of Freedom Force and the death of Destiny in battle, Mystique began losing her sanity and sought help from X-Men member Forge. Later, Forge recruited her into the U.S. government's new team of mutant operatives, X-Force. But Mystique eventually quit X-Force, organized a new Brotherhood, and resumed her terrorist career. She altered the lethal Legacy Virus so that it would affect non-mutant humans, and she blew up most of the Muir Island base of Xavier's colleague Moira MacTaggert, leaving an injured MacTaggert with the virus, which eventually killed her. Mystique led another attempt on Senator Kelly's life and even directed a full-scale terrorist attack on Paris. Mystique was eventually captured and jailed, but was sprung from prison by a surprising benefactor: Xavier. Having recently been exposed as the leader of the X-Men, Xavier asked Mystique to become his covert special operative, so that she could take action in situations without the public learning of his involvement. Mystique initially agreed, but, perhaps inevitably, she rebelled, and after an unsuccessful attempt to kill Xavier, she fled. Marvel awarded Mystique her own comic-book series in 2003, and she has appeared on television in X-Men: The Animated Series (1992–1997) and XMen: Evolution (2000–2003). The movie-going public became aware of Mystique when actress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos portrayed her in the films X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United (2003), and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). In these movies she is allied with Magneto and gets to impersonate Senator Kelly, her target from the comics. The films ignore the comic-book Mystique's personal connections with Nightcrawler, Rogue, and Sabretooth. As Mystique in her true form, Romijn-Stamos daringly—and memorably—wears no more than a thick application of body makeup, making her skin look like dark blue scales. Hence, the “clothes” that the movie Mystique wears in impersonating others are apparently part of her own flesh.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.