Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #168 (1983)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Paul Smith
Scott Summers (Cyclops) was deep in mourning for the apparent death of his longtime love, Jean Grey, when he just so happened to run into a gorgeous redheaded pilot who looked exactly like Jean! What a coincidence, right?
Yeah, of course not. The pilot, Madelyne, was a Jean clone made by noted Scott/Jean shipper Mr. Sinister, and he’d gone to the extra effort of giving Maddie fake memories and a personality that he knew Scott would like. His hope was that his matchmaking would result in a super-powered Scott-Jean(ish) baby.
Though the other X-Men were rightfully weirded out by Maddie at first, they eventually shrugged and went along with the relationship. Maddie hung out with the X-Men a lot while she dated Scott, and they got married after a fairly short courtship.
Only, turns out that marrying a woman who looks exactly like your dead girlfriend on the rebound wasn’t Scott’s best idea. He soon started to bury himself in X-Menning, not even being present for the birth of their child; Maddie had Nathan without him in the X-Men kitchen.
So things were already tense when Jean turned out to be alive, and Scott responded by immediately abandoning his family. Sisnister took this opportunity to kidnap Nathan and try to kill Maddie (Maddie/Scott being only second to his real OTP), and she subsequently found out she was a clone and that she had mega mental powers.
Time for a freak-out! After making some pacts with demons to destroy the X-Men and seducing Scott’s brother, Maddie capped off her Mother of the Year campaign by trying to sacrifice Nathan to open a portal to the hell-dimension Limbo. Maddie was killed in the ensuing battle with the X-Men.
Maddie stayed dead for a number of years until X-Man, another Sinister-made Scott-Jean kid, accidentally brought her back to life. She started hanging out with the Hellfire Club and met her now-adult, time-traveling son Cable, before forming the villainous Sisterhood of Mutants. This was an attempt to possess the now-really-dead-for-serious Jean’s corpse, but Scott managed to hide it in time. Instead, Maddie possessed a decoy and died as a result.
So What’s So Great About Her?
There are some villains who view themselves as the true protagonists of their stories—characters like General Ross, who has a point about wanting to stop the Hulk from rampaging across America but goes about things in the wrong way, and Magneto, who has strong, albeit incredibly flawed, ideological reasons for becoming an anti-human terrorist. But Maddie is one of the few supervillains for whom a hero is actively, truly a bad guy.
It’s impossible for me not to feel a ton of empathy for her. This is a woman who was bred specifically to be good enough for Scott Summers, and even after she gave birth to his child, he still immediately abandoned her the second Jean reappeared. I can’t blame Maddie for being incredibly frustrated and furious with her lot in life, twined forever with that of her rival.
The most successful villains, for me, are the sympathetic ones. I’m not trying to justify any of her evil doings or apologize for her being an appalling mother—she did try to sacrifice her baby to Hell, after all—but as her storyline evolves from background-y girlfriend and wife to antagonist, her pain is as palpable as her rage. There’s a reason why she does things like seek out Scott’s brother for a revenge rebound and try to kill Scott’s child: she’s trying futilely to hurt him as much as he hurt her. But unless Maddie murders Jean herself—which she does attempt!—she can never, ever accomplish this. No wonder she’s gone crazy.
It’s especially painful because before Maddie becomes a villain, we get years of seeing her being a fun, incredibly charming secondary character. She’s intensely likable and was probably designed to be so, to increase the emotional power of seeing her fall. Her character evolution is terribly effective, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a carefree read.
Maddie popped up in the ‘90s, inexplicably spending more time with X-Man, to whom she was only tangentially related, rather than continue to feelings-punch fest by getting to know her now-adult son some more. Maybe it’s for the best that the writers kept it to a minimum—I don’t know if I could take more of maternal heartbreak from Maddie, one of the most tragic Marvel villains.
Uncanny X-Men #168; 170-178; 181; 200-201; 215; 221-243; 499; 501-504; 508-511
X-Men and Alpha Flight #1-2
X-Factor #1; 36-38; 46-50
X-Man #5-7; 13-17; 20-25; 28-30; 38-51; 56-57
X-Man Annual 1996
Cable #44; 50