Publication Date: 28th Apr 2022
Written By: Monolith and Douglas Mangum.
Image Work: Douglas Mangum and Peter Luzifer.

Biography - page 1

The man proclaimed as Mister Sinister was born in the 19th century under the name of Nathaniel Essex. By adulthood, Essex had become a brilliant scientist and contemporary of Charles Darwin in the London Royal Society. He was intrigued by Darwin’s work regarding evolution and mutation. By all accounts, Nathaniel was also a loving family man, at first. His marriage to his wife Rebecca was arranged by her family, but they grew to truly love each other and their son, Adam. When Adam died young due to a birth defect, however, Nathaniel’s work became his obsession. He fixated on Darwin’s theories of natural selection and came to believe that Darwin was too conservative in his work. Essex foresaw that mutations could occur not just over a long periods of time, but over the span of one or two generations.

Essex was correct in his theories, but his growing detachment kept him from recognizing how his revolutionary ideas would be taken by Victorian sensibilities. Essex addressed the London Royal Society with his beliefs about human mutation, complete with an example made up of parts spliced from cadavers both human and animal. The elite of London were aghast, and even Darwin suggested Essex was allowing the death of his son to cloud his work. In turn, Nathaniel believed the others were allowing their humanity to get in the way of pure science. Ousted by the Society, Essex began to experiment on the homeless and indigent, all brought to him by a group of thugs in his employ called the Marauders. Essex had met Cootie Tremble and his Marauders running a freak show in the London slums, and he was fascinated by the genetic anomalies he discovered among their caged exhibits. Even Rebecca, fecund with their second child, could not long draw Nathaniel’s attention away from these new experiments. Her faith in her husband failed entirely when she discovered he had unearthed the body of Adam to run experiments and determine the cause of his early demise.

The Marauders stumbled upon an ancient evil newly awakened from hibernation, En Sabah Nur, also known as Apocalypse. Apocalypse approached Essex, pleased with his theories on mutation, which finally explained Apocalypse's own millennia of existence to his satisfaction. Essex in turn led Apocalypse to members of the Hellfire Club, a secret society of Britons seeking power. Nathaniel had hoped the Hellfire Club would see merit in his ideas where the Royal Society did not. En Sabah Nur was initially dismissed as a crank by the Club after his speech about global devastation to separate the weak from the strong. Once he transformed into his true form, however, Apocalypse cowed the Hellfire Club into serving him and drew in Essex as living proof of his theories about mutation.

As Essex was caught up in Apocalypse’s plans for global upheaval, another pair of mutants suddenly appeared trying to halt their plan. Both Essex and Apocalypse were unable to know that Scott Summers and Jean Grey were from the future, sent back by the Askani to prevent the ascendancy of Apocalypse. They pled with Essex not to accept the unholy pact with Apocalypse. Nathaniel came to his senses momentarily and tried to return to Rebecca and repair their marriage. Back at Milbury House, however, he discovered Rebecca had gone into labor in his absence. The child had not survived, and Rebecca was not long for this world either. Nathaniel sat at his wife’s side and begged her forgiveness, but she had none left to give. His genius, which she had once admired so much, had brought them to this point. With her last breath, Rebecca condemned Nathaniel as utterly and contemptibly… sinister.

After being rejected by his contemporaries and his own wife, Essex had nothing left to live for... except science. He returned to Apocalypse, who had captured Summers and Grey, offering them as specimens for Essex’s work. First, though, Nathaniel would need to be transformed, to live long enough to follow his work through to its ends. Essex entered the transformation machinery of Apocalypse. His new master told him that his old life was gone. "You must also lose your old name," said Apocalypse. Remade by the machinery of Apocalypse, Essex, now Mister Sinister, had clarity of purpose, and fought against the escaping Summers and Grey. Still, he quickly realized that this purpose was in direct opposition of Apocalypse's. He saw that Apocalypse's first command, the creation of a plague to ravage the population of the world, was madness... and poor science. While ice water now flowed through his veins, cruelty for its own purpose is ignorance. And ignorance, Sinister stated, is the greatest enemy of science.

Sinister decided to betray his new master. He directed Summers and Grey to Buckingham Palace, where En Sabah Nur intended to begin his upheaval. Instead of creating a plague to ravage and mutate the world's population, he created a plague to attack only Apocalypse. Weakened by this attack, Apocalypse nevertheless persevered… Sinister had not accounted for his master’s capacity to adapt. Apocalypse returned to his hibernation sanctuary, where he demanded of Sinister an explanation of his betrayal once he recovered. Apocalypse entered his hibernation chamber, which teleported away to safety. Cyclops and Jean Grey returned to their proper time, having successfully convinced Sinister to delay the rise of Apocalypse. Sinister was now left alone. [Further Adventures of Cyclops & Phoenix #1-4]

In an ontological paradox, Cyclops had inadvertently created his own family line. Oscar Stamp was one of Essex’s Marauders who refused to aid En Sabah Nur. He helped a boy named Daniel escape from Essex’s laboratory and they fled to America together. Posing as father and son, they took their surname from the man who helped rescue them, becoming Oscar and Daniel Summers. It can be no coincidence that Sinister crossed paths with Daniel decades later in New York. By 1891, Sinister had taken the alias of Dr. Nathan Milbury, a name from the manor of his wife's family and one that he would use extensively through the years. Posing as a doctor in obstetrics and pediatrics, Sinister would have access to hundreds of mothers and babies, an abundance of generational genetic material to study.

At this point, Sinister had made the acquaintance of an upper-society woman named Amanda Mueller. Amanda was a mutant, who would demonstrate an incredible lifespan in the years to come. The full nature of their relationship was never explicitly disclosed, but Amanda married Daniel Summers, a commoner, and went on to bear him several children. Each child would die suddenly and mysteriously at a young age, prompting Amanda and Daniel to try again. Eventually, Amanda came under suspicion for deliberately causing their children to die and was taken to trial as the tabloids’ “Black Womb Killer.”

It’s ultimately unclear whether Essex recognized Daniel as one of his past experiments, or knew what (or rather, who) his bloodline would eventually lead to in the future. Still, it seems Sinister was deliberately conducting a controlled breeding experiment, paying off his willing partner Amanda to marry and conceive children with another who carried the “Essex factor” in his genes. What really became of Amanda’s children is unknown, but it is highly doubtful they were truly stillborn and buried. However, Doctor Milbury’s role in the affair was unknown to the public, for he testified passionately in her defense and secured an acquittal for his patient. Still, the scandal and suspicion were enough to drive Daniel away with their only surviving son.

All this had barely resolved when another time-traveling pair of mutants made contact with Mister Sinister. On this occasion, the X-Man known as Gambit had traveled into the past to fulfill his destiny as Le Diable Blanc, a fabled figure from the annals of his own adopted family, the Thieves Guild. One of En Sabah Nur’s contemporaries, the External known as Candra, was the demanding benefactress of the guild. To seek her favor, the Thieves Guild wanted to acquire knowledge of the Old Kingdom from Apocalypse through his pawn Essex. To preserve history, Gambit needed to mediate the encounter between Sinister and the Guild.

Gambit’s partner, Jacob “Courier” Gavin, Jr., was a mutant with incredible control over his cellular structure. Gambit had identified Sinister’s alias as Doctor Milbury and had Jake morph into a woman to make an appointment with the good doctor. Sinister recognized “her” as a mutant from her blood sample, though, and incapacitated Courier to make further investigation. Gambit intervened and secured his partner’s release, but Sinister had already made the next step in his own evolution. By isolating the “Essex factor” in Courier’s genetic makeup, Sinister incorporated Jake’s cellular control into his own augmented body, adding those abilities to his repertoire.

The Thieves Guild moved on from Milbury and found information about the Old Kingdom hidden away in the spires of Ozymandias, another of Apocalypse’s minions. To fulfill his part of a deal made with Gambit, Essex performed brain surgery on LeBeau and the members of the Guild who gained knowledge of the Old Kingdom that they weren’t prepared for. That knowledge and memory was medically extracted from the Guild and locked away inside the brain of Gambit, to be released only at a later date. After acquiring Courier’s abilities, Sinister was more amused than anything at the theatrics occurring around him, and willing to go along for the ride. He did, however, take note when he saw a telltale signature of surgical work previously done inside Gambit’s brain. This was yet another piece of the puzzle unfolding before Sinister that much of his life would make more sense… in time. [Gambit (3rd series) #12-14]

Apocalypse eventually resurfaced, emerging from his hibernation chamber as the century dawned in 1899. Back in London, Sinister attended his master’s return and provided him with experimental data and knowledge on human evolution. Apocalypse sought to provoke his servant, testing him for further signs of disloyalty, but Sinister insisted he profited from Apocalypse’s largess. En Sabah Nur had Sinister work upon a new virus, a techno-organic pathogen this time. Mister Sinister perfected the virus beyond Apocalypse’s specifications, but infected his master in an attempt to free himself once and for all from Apocalypse’s control. Apocalypse had anticipated this maneuver, though, and rightly trusted his own mutant adaptability to save him. Though temporarily weakened, Apocalypse persevered and gained control of the techno-organic virus, permanently incorporating it into his own bio-mechanical frame and becoming all the stronger for it. Sinister fled before his former master, knowing they would forever be at odds from this point onwards, until he truly found the means of destroying the Eternal One. [Cable Annual ‘99]

By 1907, Essex had fled Europe and set up his experimental laboratories in Canada. He filled his private army of Marauders with men who were dying of terminal and painful illnesses and were willing to have their minds chemically wiped to serve their final days under Essex’s command. Essex introduced a polar bear into the Canadian wilderness far south of its normal hunting grounds to see if the apex predator could adapt to new circumstances. The bear was found dead by Essex’s hired men, and its strange wounds led to tales of a “beast man” living in the same woodlands. Essex and his Marauders gassed the woods in the beast man’s hunting grounds, and Essex had a brief glimpse of a true mutant escaping his grasp. Clara Creed and her brother Saul captured Logan the beast man for their employer Hugo Haversham’s traveling carnival before Essex could find him again, depriving Sinister of his prize.

Essex visited the carnival and was intrigued at the genetic possibilities on display for Logan. He tried to buy Logan from Hugo, but the showman refused to part with his meal ticket. Essex then spread rumors to seed doubt in the public about Logan’s authenticity, driving down ticket sales. He returned to Hugo with a new offer – allow him to examine Logan and take samples for his experiments. Essex would get the biological material he needed for his studies, and in turn he would offer a medical seal of authority to the beast man’s story. Hugo agreed, but this was merely a ruse on Sinister’s part as he unleashed his gas again in the laboratory to kill Hugo and his men. Essex conducted a thorough vivisection of his living subject, who surprisingly continued to live when he was done. The cellular regeneration was remarkable, and Essex had dreams of modifying his Marauder serum to work on Logan and recruit him into his ranks.

Clara Creed intervened on Essex’s work again, rescuing Logan alongside her reluctant brother. Clara spent a month trying to re-civilize Logan, and Saul became jealous of losing his sister’s attention. He contacted Essex and reported Logan’s location for the Marauders. Logan sought revenge after killing the first wave of Marauders and fought his way back into Essex’s laboratory. Essex tried to talk fast when confronted by Logan, and revealed Saul’s role in the attack, but Logan remained focused on his vengeance. He skewered Essex on all six claws, thrusting the geneticist out the window of his laboratory and tumbling down the mountainside. Logan killed Saul as well shortly thereafter, which cost him any further relationship with Clara. [Origin II #1-5]

[Note: Although he would already have possessed Courier’s abilities at this point, Essex demonstrate no overt superhuman powers during this series. Still, he must have possessed them in order to have survived Logan’s revenge.]

As fate would have it, Essex soon made the acquaintance of a longtime associate, Saul and Clara’s brother Victor Creed. Victor was a sadist who enjoyed brutalizing his brother Saul and took offense at his toy being taken from him. By 1909, Essex had established himself in Westchester at the Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane. With Creed as his loyal orderly, they tracked down Logan and arranged for him to be institutionalized at Ravencroft. Essex lobotomized Logan and managed to gather more samples for his work before the man escaped him once more. Essex and Creed thought Logan responsible for the nearby “Knickerbocker Knifer” murders, but it was actually Essex’s associate, Doctor Claudia Russell, a werewolf. Essex got his consolation prize and dissected Claudia instead, but her disappearance roused the suspicions of Jonas Ravencroft, and Essex had to move on before he fell under more scrutiny. [Ruins of Ravencroft: Sabretooth #1]