The audio commentary of X-Men: Apocalypse contained a piece of dialogue from Bryan Singer. When speaking on the film’s post-credit scene, he confirmed that it was indeed a teaser to prepare the audience for the next on-screen x-villain. If you didn’t see the post-credit scene, it goes like this: The scene is back in Alkali Lake from the previous X-Men films after the facility has been torn to shreds and some top men are tasked with damage control. One such man retrieves a vial from the scene containing the blood/DNA of Weapon X (Wolverine). He puts it in a briefcase which has “Essex Corp.” on it. That name is a direct reference to Nathaniel Essex, better known as Mr. Sinister. That’s right: Singer confirmed that Mr. Sinister will be the villain in the third installment of the Wolverine film series.
Actor Bryan Cranston expressed a desire to play Sinister eight months before X-Men: Apocalypse hit the theaters. Though now it looks more likely that British actor Richard E. Grant will portray the character. Having signed on back in April, Mr. Grant described his role in the film as that of a “mad scientist” (which is an apt description for Sinister, but we’ll see how it turns out). Many people my age remember the character from FOX’s X-Men: The Animated Series, where his one constant for them is that Cyclops optic blasts were the only force that could harm him. Though later retconned in the comic as a ruse, that false vulnerability has been perpetuated to this day because of the series’ popularity. If you don’t know about Mister Sinister or need a refresher, see my rundown below.
Real Name: Nathaniel Essex
First Appearance: The Uncanny X-Men (Vo1. 1) #221, September 1987
Powers: Mr. Sinister received his abilities through bodily augmentations by the mutant known as Apocalypse. It is possible that Apocalypse’s transformation of him only served to activate his latent “x-factor” gene which would make him a mutant, but no evidence has been shown for this possibility. Initially, he possessed superhuman strength, heightened endurance, and a level of increased longevity that may extend to immortality. After grafting a cellular sample from the shape-shifting mutant Courier onto his own DNA, Sinister gained total control over his bodily molecules. He can shape-shift so as to duplicate any humanoid form and increase his resistance to injury. He can also project concussive energy blasts and is a powerful telepath, capable of erecting mental blocks in the minds of others, astral projection, among other feats.
Brief History: Nathaniel Essex was a biologist in 19th century Victorian England. He developed advanced theories on humanity’s evolution into mutantkind and was mocked by the ruling scientists of the day because of it. His inattentiveness to his wife, Rebecca, and the loss of their son, Adam, drove him further into his work. A chance meeting with En Sabah Nur (a disguised Apocalypse) led to something of a trade-off. Apocalypse learned Essex’s theories and validated them with a show of his powers. Learning Essex’ theories finally gave Nur the word for what he is: Mutant. Essex’s scientific curiosity was obvious and Apocalypse offered to transform him into a superhuman being with the long lifespan to continue his work and live to see it. When a pregnant Rebecca was attacked and left at death’s door, she denounced Nathaniel as deplorable and “sinister”. With nothing left to live for, he accepted Apocalypse’s offer of super-powered servitude. Right before his transformation Apocalypse encouraged him to shed Nathaniel Essex and choose a new name for his new self. His wife’s last word to him came to mind: Sinister (he added the “Mister” part later).
Despite his enhancements and his newfound dispassionate outlook, he could not bring himself to serve Apocalypse. He prevented Apocalypse from unleashing a viral plague onto London, and modified the plague so that only Apocalypse was affected by it. Sinister reasoned that the plague would’ve affected the human/mutant gene pool and wanted no part in it. Though Apocalypse called him out for his betrayal and let him live, his threat was still present. Thus beginning Sinister’s obsession with mutant genetics. For the next 100+ years, he obtained and studied DNA from all known and potential mutants (Sinister had his hand in everything, from being an instructor to Charles Xavier’ during his early days as an Oxford graduate student to being at Auschwitz during Magneto’s childhood). He was looking for the right genetic combination so as to create the perfect mutant, one powerful enough to kill off Apocalypse for good. He finally found it in Scott Summers and Jean Grey. He orchestrated the events that led to the birth of their son, Nathan Christopher Charles Summers, the mutant called Cable.
But besides that, what makes him such an evil villain is that he was behind the Mutant Massacre, in which he sent his team of mutant mercenaries, the Marauders, to slaughter the underground mutant community known as the Morlocks. Though his reasons for doing so were retconned into something scientifcally rational, it still doesn’t take away from the mark he made on this reader’s memory:
However he’s portrayed on screen, he should come equipped with smugness and a dark sense of humor. Sinister’s arrogance comes from his talents for both planning ahead and dissembling. If he’s the next Wolverine villain, the typical route would be to make Sinister’s Essex Corporation that financial backers for the Weapon X program. There’s also the possibility that Wolverine’s female clone, X-23, may appear since (in the book) she was created from Logan’s DNA sample left behind after his rampage/escape from the Weapon X facility. I doubt that his origins and obsession with Cyclops’ family lineage will be brought up, which is fine because it leaves less room for a convoluted story in an already-convoluted franchise. The third film’s plot takes place in the future, so time-travel may be added to the mix once again. But as usual, I’m interested in seeing it.
All images appear courtesy of the Marvel Entertainment Group.