Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Ms. Marvel #16 (as Raven) & 18 (as Mystique) (1978)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Dave Cockrum
Not much is known about the early life of the shapeshifter knowb as Mystique—not even her real name; Raven is merely her most favored alias. She is certainly much older than she looks, having been an adult at the turn of the 20th century, when she met her partner and love of her life, the blind seer Irene Adler. Years later, Mystique active in the espionage game during World War II, apparently unaged.
During the Cold War era, she was both busy as a spy and assassin and getting busy, if you know what I’m saying. First she knocked boots with crazed murderer Sabretooth, which resulted in a son, Graydon; she later abandoned the boy when he turned out to not be a mutant. She then had an affair with a demon-y looking asshole, Azazel, which led to a second son, born with blue fur and a tail; to save herself from the resulting freaked-out mob, she threw the newborn off a cliff. Being comics, he landed in a river and safely floated into the arms of a fortune-teller, growing up to be the X-Man Nightcrawler.
You might guess that Mystque isn’t too into kids, but actually, she and Irene went on to adopt and raise a little girl, Rogue, from a very young age. Being the great mom that she is, Mystique convinced Rogue to join her team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (guess what: they were bad guys). Rogue’s powers, which cause her to absorb the powers and memories of others through skin-to-skin contact, almost unhinged her; she went to the X-Men for help, which made family reunions kind of awkward.
Mystique sort of reformed for a while, renaming the Brotherhood a more PR-happy ‘Freedom Force’ and working for the government, but Irene’s death led her to fall off the murder wagon. In time, a chip was implanted in her brain to control the use of her powers and she was forced into the service of another government team, X-Factor. Obviously, that goes really well; once the dust had cleared, her mutant-hating son and presidential nominee, Graydon, was dead by her hand, and Mystique was on the run again.
She spent some time impersonating a senator’s wife and living it up as a top European model, but most of her focus was investigating a widespread anti-mutant conspiracy. Repeated flip-flopping from the side of good to the side of evil and back again (she’s worked with the X-Men many times, despite having tried to kill Xavier’s son and successfully killing his lover; way to be, Charles) has done little but leave a trail of bodies and confusion in her wake. At the moment, Norman Osborn’s infected her with nanites, which would blow her up if she tried anything funny, and more or less forced her onto his Dark X-Men. She’s impersonating Jean Grey right now, which probably isn’t upsetting anyone (note: this is a lie).
So What’s So Great About Her?
Whereas Ms. Marvel was Marvel Comics’ optimistic take on what women’s lib might lead to — strong, powerful, heroic women who follow the American Way and just so happen to be blue-eyed blondes who look great in a bathing suit — her first major arch-rival, Mystique (haha, get it?) represented the horrors that could result. She was tirelessly self-serving, inflicted pain without remorse, and was a traitor to the USA. Her racial origin was impossible to ascertain with a glance, and she was in love with another woman. Possibly worst of all, she had a daughter and was encouraging her to take a similar path! Ooooh, terrifying, right?
Or, you know, awesome. I think it’s pretty telling that while Ms. Marvel eventually went more or less dormant as a character, only popping up now and then to freak Rogue out (they’ve been using her more effectively in recent years), Mystique went on to become one of the company’s most iconic villains. From her frankly bizarre design — bright blue skin! bright red hair! bright yellow eyes! it’s like a preschooler colored her in with some jumbo crayons — to her slinky, pristine white fantasy bad-girl getup, she cuts a memorable figure to say the least.
But even more striking is how totally terrifying Mystique is, when you really think about it. Yes, part of that is the fact that she could be anyone, but even scarier is her total lack of predictability. When it serves her to be, she’s an excellent ally, but she’ll also kill you if you happen to stand of the way of her goal. Even if you’re her child.
I think you could spend days trying to analyze Mystique’s motherly instincts and not get very far; they’re complex and confusing and thus totally realistic. Her firstborn is heartlessly abandoned when it seems that he won’t be useful, yet even when he becomes mutantkind’s worst enemy, she still seemed reluctant to actually kill Graydon. Then she tossed her second son off a cliff to save herself, but many years later, she confessed that she had dreams where she killed Rogue, but couldn’t bear to harm Kurt. So, does she love them? Hate them? Lukewarm about them? Who the hell knows! Probably not Mystique.
And then there’s Rogue. Jeez louise, talk about a mother-daughter relationship from hell—Rogue abandoned her, Rogue tried to thwart her, Rogue faked her death and failed to send Mystique the memo, Mystique keeps trying to kill her friends, Mystique tries to seduce Rogue’s boyfriend, she shoots Rogue, they stab each other. As you do, right? But when you don’t have to look to closely to realize that it’s ultimately the classic tale of a parent and child constantly seeking validation from each other, only to lead to disappointment again and again. They do love each other—and I wonder if Rogue’s Mystique’s favorite because this is the child she raised with Irene.
Oh, Irene and Mystique. It’s the love that former editor-in-chief Jim Shooter’s homophobic ‘no gay people in the Marvel Universe’ policy could not kill. For all the dudes who have come and gone in Mystique’s life, her true love will always be a soft-spoken blind woman. It’s the one touch of sweetness in Mystique’s entire history, and their interactions are incredibly moving. Oh, and P.S. apparently they were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes (with Mystique masquerading as the male detective). COMICS, YOU ARE STUPID AND I LOVE YOU.
But soft spot or no, Mystique is clearly not a person you want to tread lightly with. Especially if she happens to be your mommy.
Ms. Marvel #16; #18
Uncanny X-Men #142
Uncanny X-Men #177-178; 183-185
Marvel Fanfare #40
Uncanny X-Men #199
Uncanny X-Men #223-224; 225-227; 254-255; 266; 269
Uncanny X-Men #289-290
X-Men Unlimited #4
Uncanny X-Men #359
Uncanny X-Men #379
Uncanny X-Men #380
X-Men Forever #1-6
Uncanny X-Men #388-389; 401-406; 428; 431
X-Treme X-Men #1
X-Men: Manifest Destiny #1-5
Dark X-Men: The Beginning #1-3
Uncanny X-Men #513-514
X-Men: Legacy #226-227
Dark X-Men #1-5
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