Alpha Flight (1st series) #93

Issue Date: 
February 1991
Story Title: 
Playgrounds of the Mind

Fabian Nicieza (Writer), Michael Bair (Penciler), Mike Manley (Inker), Jackson Guice (Cover Artist) Bob Sharen (Colorist), Rick Parker (Letterer), Eric Fein (Assistant Editor), Danny Fingeroth (Editor), Tom DeFalco (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

The Fantastic Four arrive at Parliament Hill ready for their meeting with Alpha Flight, in which they request permission to investigate some strange happenings in the Yukon. Vindicator, Sasquatch, Shaman and Aurora accompany Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman on the mission, eventually arriving at a small town called Tuktoyatuk. They discover that the citizens of the rural town appear to be under some kind of mind control, but while being attacked by the civilians, Aurora tries to get her teammates and the Richards’ to use restraint on the innocents. Eventually the six heroes make their way to the safety of a mountain side, and Vindicator sets of to search for the cause of the strange happenings. He comes across a chalet, where a strange man stands, and realizes this is their foe. After returning to get the others, they all make their way to the chalet, when their foe attacks them. He uses their deepest fears or self-doubts against them. Sasquatch is forced to give in to his bestial rage, while Mr. Fantastic collapses under the pressure of so many people blaming him for Galactus’ survival. The Invisible Woman falls after being tormented by the daughter she miscarried. Shaman is forced to once more accept he was a failure as a father and a husband, while Aurora’s new pacifist ways are used against her. Vindicator gives in to the machinery that now comprises some of his body. After defeating the heroes, Headlock takes them inside and mentally examines each of them. He wears Shaman’s cloak around for a while, until he changes into some strange clothing, ready for the arrival of Guardian, Northstar, Windshear, Witchfire, the Human Torch and the Thing!

Full Summary: 


A quaint chalet, nestled in an icy valley. Inside the chalet, six super heroes lie motionless on the floor. James MacDonald Hudson a.k.a. Vindicator, Walter “Sasquatch” Langkowski, Jeanne-Marie “Aurora” Beaubier and Michael Twoyoungmen a.k.a. Shaman of Alpha Flight, along with Reed and Susan Richards, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, respectively of the Fantastic Four.

The thoughts of a singular mind float around the room. Sticky. Sticky minds. Their brains feel like old gum on a hot city street. Sticky. Can kind of stretch it out and around like taffy if you tug and pull just so…just so…but you have to be careful with heads. Grey matter, soft brains, frightened, fragile minds…not like bodied. No, not at all. Hard, sinewy flesh. Biceps and triceps and deltoids. I swoon. Minds are different. Minds are super bodies, eve more so. Super-duper. Khee. They call themselves super heroes. Khee-khee-khee-hee. Why do they do that? What makes them think of themselves in such vainglorious ways?

An odd-looking naked man with a sick-yellow glow hovers above the motionless heroes. He is wearing Shaman’s cloak. I have a lock on their heads. I do. I am a Headlock. Locked heads. Locked and linked. With mine in mine. And we’re all in my house, my crazy-spacey brain-fried inside-out house. Not THAT kind of an out-house. I am Headlock. Hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore. Helen Reddy. Classic, never locked her, eh? Know what I mean? Say no more, say no more.

Headlock leans over Mr. Fantastic’ body. Super duper hero. Why are you a guest in my parlor, said the spider to the fly? Sticky. Reed Richards. Mr. Fantastic. Taffy. You stretch a body, I stretch a mind. Let me stretch your mind sir, good leader of your noble band. Not very sticky. Very clean mind. Oooh, Mr. Clean. Felix Unger mind. Clean city. Ottawa. Clean. You talked to them, very polite, Reed Unger. Khee.

(Some time earlier):

Parliament Hill, Canada, where a top-secret complex beneath the Canadian parliament currently serves as the temporary headquarters for Canada’s premiere super heroes, Alpha Flight. Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman and their teammates Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch and Ben Grimm a.k.a. the Thing stand before several members of Alpha Flight. Mr. Fantastic tells Vindicator that it is very good to see him up and around again, to which Mac replies, somewhat stiffly, ‘Thank-you’ before reminding the Fantastic Four that when they called, they sounded urgent.

Reed explains that he noticed some rather extreme levels of psychometric encephalographic energies registering in the upper Yukon region. ‘Yeah, I noticed it too, Hudson’ replies Ben Grimm, who is not currently appearing as the Thing. Reed clears his throat, telling Mac not to mind Ben, as he is just joking. ‘I understand the concept of humor, Reed’ replies Vindicator. Reed looks to the ground, embarrassed, he mutters ‘Yes, of course you do’ before declaring that at any rate, they have come to Department H to request official permission to investigate the source of these readings.

Heather McNeil Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, long-serving leader of Alpha Flight, tells Reed that they would be happy to help if, as he said, only he and Susan will be investigating, then they can send Vindicator, Sasquatch, Shaman and Aurora to assist. Vindicator replies that the field unit would nicely suffice should the readings be of scientific or supernatural origin.

The handsome Walter Langkowski points out that since Grimm and Johnny only came to catch the Leafs / Rangers game, then would he be allowed to join them. Heather tells Walt that she thought he hated the Mapleleaf’s. ‘Get shaggy and get going’ she orders. Reed reveals that they are ready to leave immediately, as he has all of the equipment they need in the Fantasticar.


Headlock wonders if this is why the heroes came here, out of curiosity, and ponders the possibility of them being of both mental as well as physical superiority. However, walking over to the Invisible Woman, Headlock notes that she is not a specimen of physicality. Why do you do this? Why play this foolish game? Inside…Inside you are uncertain…invisible feelings… “sometimes I wish I could be normal”. With his hands on Susan’s head, Headlock discovers that thought beats within her as the pulsing of her heart. You came to my domain. You came to study my world. Goog-goog-a-joob. And inside of you, every fiber screams to be home, to be home with your son, maybe playing games, baking cookies? Oatmeal raisin, mommy!’


The Fantasticar lands in the barren Yukon, and Reed announces that this is the source area for his readings. Vindicator points out to Walter that it has been several house since Guardian requested that he transform into Sasquatch. ‘Jamie…go calculate the square root of pi’ Walt snaps back, before pointing over a ridge and announcing that they have a town at the base of the mountain. Wearing a funky green visor, Reed declares that his sensors indicate that much of the psychometric activity is centered there.


The one of light and innocence and hope…Aurora…she flew ahead, she wanted to prevent the others from acting rashly. Recalls Headlock, wondering what Aurora meant by that.


Aurora informs her teammates and the Richards’ that everything seems quiet in the town, and suggests there is no need for any battle cries. Battle cries! How delicious! Let me hear one, please! Oh yes, how ideal, charge into the town of Tuktoyatuk and beat up those bird sanctuary keepers! Headlock thinks to himself as the heroes approach a gas station that is part of the Roxxon Corporation. Reed Richards asks if the proverbial “too quiet” cliché would apply. Susan asks her husband if they are that paranoid, that a quiet town automatically means a dangerous one.

Still wearing his funky green visor, Reed is about to tell Susan what his readings indicate, when Vindicator cuts in, announcing that he is also registering abnormal electromagnetic activity. Suddenly, one of the locals approaches the heroes. Aurora informs everyone that the man appears indifferent to them, and as more people approach them, Reed declares that they are registering no E.E.G. whatsoever. Walter points out that that would imply they have no cerebral functions, to which Vindicator points out the peoples very presence denies that implication.

Jeanne-Marie points out that the people may not be in control of their actions, and Shaman agrees, offering the suggestion that someone else is exerting complete control over them. Reed declares that it would explain his readings, not to mention why the people of this town are surrounding the six of them in such a malevolent manner.


“But Reed, we can’t fight back against them!” is the thought that Headlock plucks from Susan’s mind. Quite right. A-plus on that quick quiz. Controlled the nice townsfolk for months now. Headlock reveals. Sticky, but sweet. See like through their eyes. Feel life through their touch. So…physical. Headlock approaches the slumped over Sasquatch. Oh, my! So biiig you are. Why wouldn’t you have lashed out against the townsfolk?

(Back then)

‘Sasquatch, darling, can we talk?’ asks Aurora, informing him that there are several dozen people in total. Headlock knows that Sasquatch thought to himself that there are plenty of beat up on then. Headlock also knows that Sasquatch felt guilty about it too. Vindicator asks Jeanne-Marie what there clearest means of egress is.Shortest distance between two points is a straight line, wouldnchuknow?’

Hovering above the others and keeping an eye on the civilians, Aurora declares that she would hazard to say that there may be no means of a clear retreat. Ooh how that word set you off. RETREAT. Walt transforms into Sasquatch and declares that they let the civilians worry about retreating, but Shaman declare ‘No!’ and reminds him that just like in their battle with the Remnant Men, these people are innocent dupes.

Nevertheless, Sasquatch engages several of the men in battle, and as they hit him with sticks, he declares that he is getting a little tired of letting himself get smacked around like a fuzzy medicine ball. Shaman suggests that they backtrack up the cliff, and Vindicator disperses an electromagnetic field which he hopes will disrupt the civilians neural signals, limited as they may be. Mac explains that the civilians’ lack of locomotion should prevent them from pursuing the heroes up the mountainous terrain.

The Invisible Woman unleashes an invisible force screen to hold the civilians back also. As the heroes make their exit, Walter points out to Jeanne-Marie that they could have just as easily politely punched the civilians out, to which Aurora tells her ex-lover that he sounds as if the Great Beast still resided in his soul. Walt replies that sometimes he thinks it still does.


Lots of anger. GRRROWR. Scary inside you, Walter. So much intelligence, so much brutishness. How could the two co-exist inside one person? Headlock walks over to Aurora and pulls her cowl off. But this one…this little ray of sunshine…her I could love. She’s trying so hard to be non-violent - hey, it could happen! Headlock picks Aurora up and clasps her head. Oh what a lovely life we could have together! Honey, I’m home! Are you? Ah, you were very self-satisfied.


Alpha Flight and Mr and Mrs Fantastic had retreated without any need for real confrontation, and Reed announces that he thinks he has been able to isolate the E.E.G. wavelength which is controlling the citizens minds, it is coming from above them. Vindicator asks Reed to allow him to access the frequency, and taking to the air, he performs aerial reconnaissance in search of the transmission source.

Aurora lets flow a brilliant light, explaining that she is trying to ease the pain of the innocents who are pursuing them. ‘How come when I wanted to do the same thing everyone jumped down my throat?’ asks Sasquatch. Aurora points out that it is because his method would not have helped, and informs everyone that she is simply immersing the townspeople in a warming flood of her light. Aurora hopes that it will instill a calmness of spirit and body in them.

Oh, I could feel it in their numb little minds. Sleepy time, cuddle up. Like a warm blanket in the winter. Like the purring of a kitten at you fingertips. Unfortunately, I was in more of a “New York State of Mind”. Go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots uh-huh. Shadooble.

Aurora suddenly screams, and begins to fall to the ground. She simply couldn’t generate enough inner light to burn out my dark presence from their duped minds. boasts Headlock. Susan calls to Aurora, telling her to go limp so she can catch her in an invisible cushion. But Aurora slams into the ground. Shaman goes to his teammates aid asks her if she is hurt. Aurora replies that she isn’t, before asking Twoyoungmen why it is that whenever she seeks to help through non-physical means, she is rebuffed? ‘Why do all my efforts fail? Shaman cautiously replies that he doesn’t know, to which Aurora asks ‘Is our only means of helping people through violence and aggression?’


No, no, I wouldn’t say that, my little angel of light. You’re just drawn that way exclaims Headlock. A tear falls down Jeanne-Marie’s cheek. I-I’m sorry, angel, don’t cry. She’s so sad inside. She feels empty and hollow. Yeah, sure, sure, but her outsides are just fine. Growr. Ahem. Headlock turns his attention to Shaman who is lying nearby, and thinks that as Shaman mirrors Aurora’s compassion, he is interesting too. Michael Twoyoungmen. Surgeon. Mystic. Shaman.

What makes you tick-tock? He tried to soothe my angel of light. His first instinct was to heal, not hurt. So unlike this species I call HOMO SPANDEXUS, and I mean that in a purely Latin sense of course. Headlock leans over Shaman, and touching his face, he exclaims Patient says to the Doctor: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this…” Doctor says “Tough luck, here’s your bill. Pay on your way out”. Whoa, I’m paying on my way in!’ His mind is really fighting back, he must be mad at me for taking his nifty cloak from him! Tough luck, Mikey.

(Back then, some more)

Shaman approaches Reed and asks him if he has had any luck, the Fantastic Four’s leader replies that he hasn’t. He reveals that he can locate the energies general location, but not their exact source. He proclaims that it is up to Vindicator to do a visual recon, before Sasquatch asks if they have any idea of who it is they are up against. Reed replies that there are countless telepaths it could be, but points out that he has never encountered anyone who could manipulate cerebral energies with such facile ease. Shaman wonders why someone would do this, what it is they could stand to gain by controlling a town as small and remote as this. He wishes Vindicator would hurry so they can begin top answer some of these questions.

Elsewhere, Vindicator swiftly approaches a quaint wooden chalet. I’ll just move over to Vindy and plumb his mind…

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

James MacDonald Hudson

James MacDonald Hudson who?

That’s not funny, he’s not too sure, either!

Haw! I kill me! Wait a minute here. He’s got me dead to rights! Ooh, so he’s hiding in the stove eh? From his little Timex/Rolex/Purex paste he sends out a whole bunch of nifty-keen electromagnetic impulses. My teeth chattered as they washed over me. I felt as if my brain were going through a car wash. Then he knew I was there. Hi, Jaime! And he went back to get the others.
After staring at the chalet for some time, Mac turns and heads back to the others.


Headlock has now moved from Shaman to Vindicator. Going from one mind to the other, like choosing between jelly beans and sesame seeds…a teensy-tiny bit conflicting. But it’s the thrill of tasting the food that really counts. From the spiritual to the mechanical…what do you have to show me, James MacDonald Hudson? Clean. Precise. Logical. Like the rubber-band man’s mind, but even more structured. Oooh, and they call me a head-case! You see everything in absolutes James? How limiting.

Even I pity you, your rigid, mathematical method of seeing life! Did you ever think of streaking James? Now there was a liberating fad! No. Streaking has a whole ‘nother definition for you. Streaking into battle: TAN-TA-TA-DUM! Peeking into your mind is like looking under the hood of a car, James. You know what’s going to be there, but you never know what’s going to be wrong. You led your do-gooders toward my house…and I waited for your arrival like a super villain of honor is supposed to do. You know I try so hard to do things according to the rules and dictates expected of my kind.

(The past)

Sitting in the back of the Fantasticar after Vindicator explained the situation to his teammates and the Richards’, Sasquatch assumes that the naked guy is behind this. ‘Figures. The Avengers get Kang and we get butt-naked under-nourished geeks’. Mr. Fantastic declares that their enemy’s physique seems to match that of a telepath the Avengers faced called Headlock. As the heroes approach the chalet, Vindicator announces that Headlock is transmitting wavelengths on a multi-band spectrum, disrupting the cyber link with his biochemical systems, ‘I cannot maintain flight mode!’ Yup remarks Headlock as Mac crashes into the snow.

The rubber-band man was next. Mr. Fantastic announces that Vindicator is down and is about to explain what he wants everyone to do, when he goes silent, and the Fantasticar stops flying like it is supposed to and heads for the ground. Sasquatch asks Reed what is wrong, to which Twoyoungmen reveals that his mind has been usurped, and they are going to crash. As the Fantasticar smashes into the snow, Headlock exclaims James Cameron and Steven Spielberg have nothing on these folks, eh?

‘REED!’ shouts Susan, who along with Aurora, used their own means of transport rather than the Fantasticar. Jeanne-Marie wonders if they could have survived, and on-cue, Sasquatch, Mr. Fantastic and Shaman appear before the women. ‘Oh yeah, they could have…question is, will we be able to say the same about Headlock?’ asks Walt. Reed warns Sasquatch who is making his way to the chalet, not to rush into this, because of Headlock’s powers. Suddenly, Sasquatch raises his arms above his face. This one is sooo simple. Bestial violent man.

Sasquatch growls, drool spills out of his mouth, as Aurora approaches him and with her calming light, she tells Walter not to give into his animal passions, but to let them go. Sasquatch lets out a mighty roar, before declaring that he cant let them go, as they are a part of him. Sasquatch collapses into the snow, and Shaman and Reed run over to him, Shaman pointing out that Sasquatch couldn’t fight Headlock’s control. Reed realizes that Sasquatch’s mind has simply shut down from the strain, but figures that he should recover, given a chance to rest.

Reed explains that Headlock is capable of attacking them through their psychological foibles. He tells the remaining heroes that they cannot allow themselves to lapse into a state of mental weakness. Oh, how presumptuous, Richards…to think that one does not “allow” a weakness - one simply accepts that they exist. And YOU may not perceive yourself as the type of man who has them, but guess what? GOTCHA!

Reed suddenly screams and his body uncontrollably stretches ‘They want me! They all want a piece of me!’ he yells. Susan rushes to her husband, but Shaman holds her back. Susan asks ‘What? Who?’ to which Reed asks her if she doesn’t see them, ‘Are you blind? They all want me - they’re stretching me out!’ The races that have been killed by Galactus the Planet Devourer! I saved his life and now all they want is revenge! Billions upon billions upon billions! They all blame me for what he did!’ exclaims the panicking Mr. Fantastic.

As Reed collapses, Susan starts to run over to him, but Shaman holds her back, pointing out that Reed is unconscious, just like Sasquatch, so there is nothing they can do for him right now. Susan turns, and suddenly sees Headlock before her. ‘It was you!’ she gasps, realizing that Headlock attacked Reed’s worst self-doubt, his worse uncertainty. ‘How could you have known?’ she asks. Oh, dead Susie, it wasn’t very difficult. You see, from the strong of will to the weakest among you, you all have that one tasty morsel I can chew on.

The Invisible Woman begins exclaiming ‘No!’ over and over, and Shaman asks her what is wrong. ‘Michael, don’t you see? My baby - my daughter…my miscarriage! She would have been so very beautiful…’ remarks Susan as she looks at the baby in Headlock’s arms. You got that right, Susie! You wanna hold her? But as Headlock passes the baby over to Susan, a deformed creature sits in his arms, drool spilling from its mouth it mutters ‘By the way, mother, I don’t feel too good!’ Susan screams and falls into the snow. Yes! Goochie coochie coo! So much pain! I swam into it. It engulfed me. It engulfed her.

‘We have endured you enough, you mind raper!’ exclaims Shaman as he confronts Headlock. Mind Raper, Shaman? Mind Raper. Kinda like that. Shaman reaches into his medicine pouch, claiming a handful of clouding dust will dull Headlock’s mind. Suddenly, Shaman realizes instead that he has drawn something else from his pouch:

Official Certificate of Death:

Name: Kathryn Twoyoungmen

Place of Death: Calgary

Time of Death: Big hand on the ten, little hand on the two

Next of Kin: Michael - Husband; Elizabeth – Daughter


‘This is a lie!’ exclaims Shaman, dropping the death certificate. Next he thinks he pulls the Staff of Sisiutl from his pouch, but instead he is holding the head of his daughter, Elizabeth “Talisman” Twoyoungmen. ‘It’s true, Daddy! You killed Mommy and you let me hurt myself! Why couldn’t you help us when we needed you most?’ Shaman calls to Elizabeth, but falls to the ground, ‘I tried…I’m so sorry…I tried’. Lights out for Mikey!

Aurora flies towards Headlock and asks him why he is doing this. Oooh, lights back on! Headlights that is! Hey cutie, is that a twenty-watt bulb in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Why am I doing this? Hmm…hold on a sec, hon, let me think about this…jeez, well, I’m stumped! jokes Headlock. Aurora suggests to the villain that he look a little more deeply within himself, and bathes him in her healing light. Felt like someone put a shower massage inside my spleen. And the worst thing about it is, her healing light actually reached inside of me and made me tell the truth: I DID IT BECAUSE I CAN!

The mind wave erupted out of me with the same anger as the answer did, and it’s an effect pretty Aurora didn’t like. And neither did any of the other perky little personalities she’s had buried inside her for so long. As Aurora falls to the ground, Headlock tells himself that it was all very interesting, Never really dug inside the mind of a multiple personality before. Kind of like doing tequila shots. Salt, shot, lime, KA-BOOM.

Suddenly, Vindicator flies towards Headlock and orders him to surrender. Vindy-Baybeee…welcome back to consciousness! But if I were you, I’d back off from the tuff hombre stuff, don’t make threats you can’t back up! Vindicator replies that he is not, as his mind is made of mechanical as well as organic components. ‘I have the least amount of human brain to control’. Exactly declares Headlock as he enters Mac’s mind, It was like the “Cyclone” and “Space Mountain” rolled into one. What a ride!

He let go of a whopper electromagnetic pulse as he realized he was slipping away. Then he felt himself becoming more and more mechanical. The mind taken over by the machinery. It was too much for him to handle and he passed out…because he found himself liking the idea.


And then they were all defeated. One by one their minds were mine to play with as I pleased. But they didn’t give me the answers I needed. The game was fun, but it wasn’t educational. I’ve made my position clear, I want to be known as the education super villain. Headlock leaves the heroes and walks up a flight of stairs. Why do they do what they do? He wonders as he puts on a pair of overalls, then shoes, and other accessories. What makes them so physical, so virile? I can become them. I can wear the garb they wear. Walk the walk they walk. Talk the talk walk. Fight the fight they fight. I can prove myself worthy of them.

Headlock stands, looking rather dorky, as he boasts: I can defeat them on their own level, mano-a-mano. I have the duds to do it. I represent warriors of great renown from throughout the ages. Ares, Mithra, Heracles, Osiris, Mel Gibson and Bill Freehan. They come and I am ready for them. The friends of those I have conquered in battle - Northstar and the Human Torch and Witchfire and Windshear and the Thing and Guardian.

They come and I am ready for them. They come to feel the truth of the flesh - more fragile than the mind, I have come to understand. They have come to face me flesh to flesh. They come to die like heroes should, in battle!

Characters Involved: 

Aurora, Guardian III, Northstar, Sasquatch, Shaman, Vindicator (all Alpha Flight)



Human Torch II, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)


Citizens of Tuktoyatuk

In Headlock’s illusions

Talisman II

Invisible Woman’s miscarried daughter

Story Notes: 

Mr. Fantastic’s comment about it being good to see Vindicator again of course refers to Mac’s death in Alpha Flight (1st series) #12 and recent resurrection. [Alpha Flight (1st series) #87-90]

The Fantastic Four became aware of some strange happenings in Canada in Alpha Flight (1st series) #92.

The Invisible Woman has previously teamed-up with Alpha Flight in the classic Alpha Flight (1st series) #2-4.

Indeed, Sasquatch mentioned that he hated the Mapleleaf’s in Alpha Flight (1st series) #91.

Page six, panel six, Aurora’s word balloon comes from Shaman, and Shaman’s word balloon comes from Aurora.

Shaman, Sasquatch, Aurora and Talisman battled the Remnant Men in Alpha Flight (1st series) #88-90 in their search for the missing Puck.

The ‘MacDonald’ in James MacDonald Hudson is misspelled ‘McDonald’ throughout this issue.

The Avengers, or rather, the Avengers West Coast, fought Headlock in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #10.

James Cameron and Steven Spielberg are two famous directors / producers. Cameron’s credits include The Titanic, Terminator, and Terminator 2. Spielberg’s credits include Jurassic Park, ER and Poltergeist.

Shaman’s wife died in the back story of Alpha Flight (1st series) #5. Shaman has failed or misled his daughter, Elizabeth, on numerous occasions since then, including Alpha Flight (1st series) #5 (back story), #19, #27, #38, #90.

Though she only appears in the background, Witchfire is wearing her new costume this issue. Though it is supposed to be blue and cream, it is either miss-colored red and orange, or the glow of the Human Torch makes the colors appear different.

An error occurs on the cover, as Shaman is wearing his original green and brown costume instead of his current black costume with cloak.

Issue Information: 
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