X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Forty-One (1989)

X-Men Vignettes #41 (1989)
“Little Boy Lost”
Writer – Chris Claremont
Pencils – Mike Collins
Inks – Joe Rubenstein
Letters – Mike Heisler
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Edits – Edelman, Harras, DeFalco
From: Classic X-Men #41 (December, 1989)

If you were to speak of the Classix Backups… you’d probably one of a few boilerplate responses. First, people will go nuts about the Art Adams covers… which is fair, because they’re pretty fantastic – though, it’s easy (for some “X-Scholars”) to forget that he isn’t doing the interior art. Second, folks’ll mention the name “John Bolton” with their noses pointed aloft, and act as though they’re the only one who’s ever seen his work. Third, they might just mention the story we’re about to discuss. This is… kind of an important one, so much so, that the primary custodian of the X-Men franchise has returned to tell it!

Chris Claremont is back… and, check this out — we’re getting a Cyclops-centric little ditty! Part One of Two, even! We’re going all the way back to Scott’s time in the Home for Foundlings… where, if my pro-friggin-fessional cover didn’t tip y’off… something Sinister this way comes.

Let’s do it.

We open at the playground at the Sinister Home For Foundlings in Nebraska. If you’ve been following the current-year stuff, you might recall that they recently burnt this place to the ground in the opening arc of Hellions — which, like I always say on-air: “If you’re not reading Hellions — you should be reading Hellions.” It’s 18 or so issues of some of the finest in current-year comics, I honestly cannot recommend it enough. The book is so good, it almost brought this tired old cynic to tears! Anyway, it’s here were some a-hole kid named Toby Rails is beating the crap out of this little weirdo called Nate. Nate is Scott Summers’s’s’s roommate, and for reasons he can’t quite explain, Scott has almost this “big brother” protectiveness over him. Hmm. Scott rushes into the fracas, and gets socked in the mush for his troubles. The fight is soon broken up by John Byrne.

Scott is whisked away to the nurse’s office to get his face fixed up. In true Claremontian fashion, our new-doc introduces herself by name in her very first panel. She’s Doctor Robyn Hanover, by the by. As she giddily presses some rubbing alcohol into Scott’s eye-wound (I mean, she’s smiling like the Cheshire Cat here… friggin’ sadist), they talk about his homey Nate. Scott can’t quite explain why he’s so protective of his blonde buddy… especially since, he really doesn’t actually like him all that much. He says something about the boy just rubs him wrong. A lotta wrong-rubbing in this scene.

That night, Scott has a nightmare. An odd, fragmented nightmare. There’s fire, and falling… Scott is reaching out to save his roommate Nate from falling to his death. It’s almost like something our boy might’ve experienced before winding up in the Orphanage. Hmm. Oh, and in case it’s not clear — Scott doesn’t know anything about the time before he woke up at the Orphanage. He doesn’t know much about what happened to his folks, or who they even were — he also doesn’t (consciously) know that he has a blonde little brother.

Scott awakes with a shout… which brings Doctor Robyn running in like a rocket. Nate tells her that Scott had a bad dream, but everything’s okay now — sorta the “nothing to see here!” gag. Doctor Robyn ain’t buyin’ it… and wants Scott to spend the night with her in the infirmary just in case. Toby Rails is there to see all this play out, and he starts singing about how Nate probably wants to make out with Scott… which, I mean — imagine the bully at your school, or camp, or wherever… singing the K-I-S-S-I-N-G song. Ridiculous, right? Oh well, the Doc takes Scott — Nate tells her she’s making a hyooge mistake.

We rejoin Toby who’s stomping back to his dorm. Along the way he bumps into… something Sinister. Mister Sinister, even! Sinister tells him that he’s “tolerated” him until now… but, things are about to change.

The next morning, we catch up with Doctor Robyn, who is in the office talking about her new obsession… Scott Summers. She learns that he’s been at the Home for Foundlings for over four years now. Also, that he came in after being in a coma for over a year after a skull fracture — they assume he has severe brain damage. The only thing he seems to remember pre-coma was that he was nearly kidnapped by aliens. Which, well — we know to be the case, but seems rather far-fetched, dunnit?

Robyn heads out to the hallway, where she runs into the Chief Administrator of the Orphanage… who gives her a few warnings: 1) don’t wear sneakers in my hallways, ya hussy, 2) wear a longer skirt in my hallways, ya hussy, and 3) Scott Summers is still below the age of consent, so quit sniffin’ around him. Well, that’s the gist of it, anyway.

Let’s stick with Robyn… because, Claremont really wants us to know her. She’s moving in to her new office, with the aid of her new best friend, Scott Summers. As she hangs up a framed portrait of a plane, Scott takes a keen interest. He’s a big-time fan of flyin’ machines, ya see. He’d even want to one day be a pilot… though, he’s sure his traumatic brain damage would keep him outta the cockpit. Robin feels like she’s making headway… and is probably just about to offer Scott a libation, when — there’s some rumblin’s coming from outside. Toby Rails… bully x-traordinaire, and amateur crooner… is in trouble!

And… indeed he is. He’s actually stood atop one of the facility’s dorms… and it looks like he might just jump. Rather than actually doing anything, the orphans and staff alike just gather and watch the scene play out. Li’l Nate is among the crowd, and seems mighty pleased that his tormentor might just take the leap. Doc Robyn calls him out for being so harsh… but, it doesn’t do much for the little psychopath.

Now, since none of the adults will do anything about this — it’s up to the brain-damaged kid, Scott Summers to climb up the building and confront the a-hole who punched him in the face yesterday. Scott warns that it’s a long way down and all that — but Rails ain’t hearing none of it… claiming he’s about to “fly”, he jumps. Scott manages to catch him by the hand… but, his grip can only hold for a few moments. Toby sandbags himself… and Scott just can’t keep his grip. Toby falls.

It’s weird, only after the fact does Doctor Robyn climb to the roof. Like, couldn’t she have been of help, I dunno, 45 seconds ago? Like, if there were an adult up there, maybe they’d have been able to physically restrain Toby before he did what he did? I dunno. Anyway, as the Emergency Service Vehicles leave the premises, she tells Scott that none of this is his fault. He then waxes on a bit about the color of the sky.

We close out the chapter with Scott leaving the roof… and walking back to his dorm with his homey Nate. Nate, by the way, shoots a look that could kill in Doctor Robyn’s direction… which she cannot help but to notice. She recalls that this is the same sort of look he shot Toby Rails last night. Uh-oh.

Now, okay, I may’ve had a little bit of fun with this one — but, I really quite enjoyed it! Truth be told, and this might cost me my Fake-Ass X-Historian card, but — this was my first time reading this one! I’d always heard about it — as the genesis of the Sinister/Cyclops relationship, but up until now, never actually sat down with it. I wanna say the first time I’d read OF it was probably back in my old USENET stomping grounds — it was probably part of Kate the Short’s X-FAQ. Good grief, it’s been a long time since I’d last thought of that. It was in that FAQ where I learned about Claremont’s original intention for Mr. Sinister — as a manifestation of an “imaginary friend” of sorts to Scott’s twisted roommate that the Orphanage. I was instantly intrigued… because, it just seemed like such a cool idea. The look of Sinister… the name “Sinister”… it all seems like something a small child would think up when trying to concoct something “scary”.

There was reference made to this very story — which, as an X-Fan — and a Cyclops-fan, I probably should have checked out some quarter-century ago. But, I didn’t… and that’s all due to a misunderstanding I had about it. When I read that this was the “intended” origin for Mr. Sinister, I think I kinda filed it away in the “out of continuity”/What if…? pile. As though, maybe the X-Office gave Claremont an issue’s worth of pages to “play out” his original concept. Hey, it’s not like the Vignettes have been making all that great’a use of those pages of late. In reading this far, however, I’m fairly certain that this story is in continuity… and, likely won’t go all the way into Claremont’s original vision. I’m guessing that Sinister isn’t so much Nate’s “imaginary friend”… but, Nate himself. Like, Sinister has taken the form of a child to get to Scott. He’s probably also taking the form of other folks at the Home for Foundlings… at the very least, I’d guess he’s also the Chief Admin who came down hard on Dr. Robyn for her sneaks.

At this point, Sinister’s motivations aren’t entirely clear. I mean, with all of our hindsight, we could make a few educated guesses — but, in a vacuum, we’re left wondering… at least for now. Why would Nate/Sinister orchestrate Toby Rails’ suicide? Did he know that Scott would be the one to step up? Did he know that Scott would be unsuccessful in stopping him? Is that part of the plan? Was Doctor Hanover’s arrival planned… or, is she a monkey wrench in the Sinister machine? If so… and since I don’t think we’ve seen her since… I’m not too confident she’s going to be making it outta this tale.

Overall — like I said, this one ain’t perfect… and relies a bit too much on convenience factors, but I very much enjoyed it all the same. I’m happy to have finally checked this one out, and am looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

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2 thoughts on “X-Men Vignettes, Chapter Forty-One (1989)

  • May 2, 2022 at 2:59 pm
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    Finally, a Cyclops vignette. Well, Scott. Summers at least. He hasn’t joined the X-Men yet, or even had his mutant power manifest, but he’s the star of it.
    The long wait kind of pays off. This is easily the vignette that had the most lasting effect on X-Men history. And it’s the first two parter. Never before (and never again) did the words “to be continued” mean anything in these vignettes.
    The fact that it’s a two parter, and isn’t set in the time of the reprinted story it accompanies, makes me wonder if this was originally ment to be one long story printed in possibly an X-Men Annual or something. Either that or a last ditch attempt to increase sales and keep the new material in the book.
    Well at least ole Slim finall got some vignette love.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2022 at 8:06 am
    Permalink

    IF that teacher was John Byrne, then the chief administrator has got to be Stan Lee. I mean that one head shot alone could have been the cover of his autobiography.

    I’m so fascinated by Mr Sinister and his origins that this story really hits that sweet spot of X-lore / history for me.

    Reply

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