The Saga of the High Evolutionary
Issue(s): X-Factor annual #3, Punisher annual #1, Silver Surfer annual #1, New Mutants annual #4, Fantastic Four annual #21, Amazing Spider-Man annual #22, Uncanny X-Men annual #12, Web of Spider-Man annual #4, West Coast Avengers annual #3, Spectacular Spider-Man annual #8, Avengers annual #17 (Saga of the High Evolutionary stories only)
As a back-up feature throughout the 1988 Evolutionary War annuals, Mark Gruenwald provided a history of the High Evolutionary. I don't normally cover these kinds of historical back-up features, but since this does end after Marvel Comics #1 i thought i would put up an entry for it. It is definitely a Saga format, which means it's less a narrative and more just a series of things that happened. But it is mostly new material, or rather an expansion of things that were only hinted at, shown in flashback, or included as new info in Handbooks, and it is in pure comic book form, not the combination of text and images that are used in Marvel Saga or Wolverine Saga. The last three parts begin recapping actual comics beginning in the aftermath of the High Evolutionary's first published appearance in Thor, and i won't be covering those except in the References section.
The story begins with Herbert Edgar Wyndham in his lab (really his mom's basement) in the suburbs of London, 1928. He's trying out a genetic accelerator on a rat, which dies like over a hundred before it (assuming those drawers are all full of dead rats).
He's then invited to a conference on genetics in Geneva which is also attended by Arnim Zola, Wladyslav Shinski (later of the Enclave), and the MCP place Dr. Noah Black (later Centurius) at the event as well. Wyndham also befriends Jonathan Drew, later father to Spider-Woman.
Wyndham tries to talk to Shinski after his lecture, but Shinski dismisses his ideas as reckless until the genetic code is fully mapped, which could take decades.
It's worth noting that as part of the Enclave, Shinski will create Adam Warlock, who is a significant occasional associate of the High Evolutionary's.
Also lurking in the background of the conference is a guy in a top hat, and he later approaches Wyndham and provides him with the information on the genetic code that Shinski said that he should wait for.
The top hatted guy is Phaeder, an Inhuman that will eventually father (or perhaps already has) Maelstrom. The fact that he's providing information here was previously disclosed in the original Marvel Handbooks (Maelstrom's entry), which says that he also provided info to Magneto, Arnim Zola, the Jackal, the Enclave, and Doctor Hydro.
We then jump ahead two years where Wyndham is a student at Oxford, and is still studying the hieroglyphic-like notes from Phaeder.
But his professors find out what he's been working on...
...and he's kicked out and moves back in with his mom, and is reduced to experimenting on the family dog...
...which is shot dead by the locals.
Luckily at this point he's contacted by his friend Jonathan Drew, whose wife Merriem has inherited some land in the Balkans: what we know as Wundagore.
And even better, it turns out that Wundagore mountain is loaded with uranium, which gives them the funding they need for their research. Note the young Jessica Drew; it's July 1930 at this point.
With their funding they contact a Horace Grabsheid, which is the non-Anglicized name of Matthew Grayson, the father of the Golden Age Marvel Boy, and he agrees to design their "Citadel of Science" if they'll fund his personal project, an interplanetary spacecraft. Grabsheid designs their Citadel to be spaceworthy too.
There's also a werewolf on the property, but only Jessica Drew has seen it so far.
And Wyndham is visited by Phaeder again.
This time Phaeder provides him with a contingent of Moloid workers.
Wundagore is obviously a very busy place (and we're not done yet), but that had already been established in various comics by time of publication. The Moloids are a new addition, but i guess the idea was to explain how the Evolutionary could have had the Citadel built. I had always assumed the New Men did it, but obviously Gruenwald is going for a different chronology.
The Moldeoids also "explain" the legends of gnomes in the region.
In March 1931, Jessica Drew passes out while playing in the radioactive mud (der!) with a young and giant-headed Phillip Masters, later the Puppet Master.
It's at this point that Jessica is put into cryogenic storage after receiving the spider-extract that is the fulfillment of her father's experiments, as per Spider-Woman's origin story. Merriem Drew is then attacked and killed by the werewolf. The next month (April, 1931), Wyndham is attacked by it as well.
Jonathan Drew leaves the mountain after the death of his wife.
So Wyndham designs a silver suit for himself to combat the werewolf alone.
It manages to kill one of the Moloids...
...and then he traps it. However, the death of the Moloids drives the rest of them away, and they don't return.
It turns out that the werewolf is the neighboring Baron Gregor Russoff (later the father of Jack Russell, Werewolf By Night).
In the next part, it's March 1932, and the High Evolutionary has already created a number of New Men and is in the process of creating Bova.
Jonathan Drew returns, possessed by the spirit of Magnus, the wizard that will later be a part of Spider-Woman's solo series. He warns Wyndham that the Elder Demon Ch'thon was trapped underneath Wundagore by Morgan Le Fey.
Despite all he's seen and done, Wyndham still considers himself a man of science and doesn't believe that Drew is really possessed.
The next part is from the X-Men annual, and i wonder if it was timed so that this part of the story would run there, since it shows the birth of Magneto's children. Unlike the previous segments, this part doesn't give an exact year and only says it's been "over a decade" since the High Evolutionary and Magnus have been training the New Men to fight against Ch'thon.
Ch'thon has so far not manifested, but it's at this time that the woman Magda arrives at Wundagore.
Semi-conscious, Magda talks about her husband being a monster that she had to flee from.
And after her arrival, Ch'thon does appear and the New Men go into battle.
In his astral form, Magnus discovers that Baron Russoff had been using the Darkhold to try to cure his lycanthropy.
Magnus possesses him and stops Ch'thon, but not before the infant Scarlet Witch is zapped.
Over the course of the next several days, Magda sneaks out of the Citadel, leaving the High Evolutionary to wonder what to do with the two infants. Then Miss America and the Whizzer show up. It's not said why, in this telling, but it's because they were seeking help because Miss America was suffering from radiation poisoning after the birth of their first son, Nuklo.
The plan is to add Magda's babies to the one that Miss America will have, telling her and the Whizzer that they had triplets. But their baby is stillborn, and Miss America dies during childbirth.
Bova tries to give Magda's babies to the Whizzer, but he instead flees in grief.
At the same time, the High Evolutionary is reviving Jessica Drew, who has been in cryogenic storage for "decades".
When the Evolutionary hears about the developments with the babies, he delivers them to some local gypsies who had lost their own children during World War II.
And that's basically how things end, with the final three issues recapping events after Thor's departure in Thor #135 (where Horace Grabsheid's built-in rocket design proved useful).
If this were an actual story, it could only be called a convoluted mess, and it does illustrate how important and/or overused Wundagore was in the backstory of a large number of Marvel characters. But as a little history lesson in story form, it was a worthy effort and it's cool that Gruenwald and Marvel included it.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: As usual when a story spans a large period, i'm placing this at the conclusion, which would be somewhere in the Hero Gap since Jessica Drew is still a young child. Note that, unusually, all of the References below are to issues that take place after the events here. There are also no footnotes until the forward recapping begins in part nine (and even then not always).
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
Magnus claimed to be born in the year 554. That makes no sense- Tyrannus was supposedly a child when Rome fell in the year 476 and was probably in his 20s-40s when he fought King Arthur and the original Black Knight.
Posted by: Michael | August 8, 2014 10:49 PM
Honestly not sure if my first reading of the Evolutioner was in Thor or Hulk, I think it was the latter. My memory of that was being surprised that he was a human or humanoid and not an alien or a robot. I also figured that he was not going to appear very often. And surprising too when he took on Galactus himself sometime in a 70s Fantastic Four issue.
Posted by: david banes | August 9, 2014 2:03 AM
In the real world, DNA wouldn't be discovered until the 1950s. I like to think that Wyndham's work being so advanced is not due to Phaeder alone, but that all science is more advanced in the Marvel universe, leading to the technological marvels of the Golden Age (including advanced human-like androids like the Human Torch). After all, when he is explaining his work to his professors, it's clear he expects them to understand what DNA is and what it looks like.
I'm not sure what to make of the DNA in the "after" image. It looks more like it has been through a blender than mutated. It's not double-helix anymore, more of a jumbled mess.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | August 10, 2014 9:16 PM
It will be interesting to see if this story remains canon following the "revelations" in Axis 7.
Posted by: Michael | December 10, 2014 10:31 PM
Some around 2000 an X-Men story also inserts Mr. Sinister into the origin story of the High Evolutionary.
Posted by: Berend | April 12, 2015 10:53 PM
@fnord12: Is it possible to add the scene which Berend refers to as an addendum to this page (or tell me to get back in my box:)?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 12, 2015 11:19 PM
The scene is in Uncanny X-Men 380, for the record.
Posted by: Michael | April 12, 2015 11:43 PM
I wouldn't add it to this entry, so we'll just have to wait until i get to the year 2000. Which will be in the year 2019, by my estimation. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | April 13, 2015 7:31 AM
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 13, 2015 7:41 AM
I'm a little bothered by the Pietro/Wanda stuff because of the sliding timescale, as the twins were clearly supposed to be approximately 20 or so when the original X-Men, Spider-Man and Human Torch were teenagers in the original Lee/Kirby and Lee/Ditko years ... but I'm willing to suspend disbelief for now, especially since a lot of the twins' backstory was recently undone in "Uncanny Avengers."
Posted by: Jeff | May 14, 2015 1:44 PM
I'm not sure if it's mentioned elsewhere on the site, but Herbert Edgar Wyndham is named for Herbert George Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and John Wyndham. The reason for the nod to HG Wells is obvious; the new men are lifted directly from the Island of Dr. Moreau. I'm not sure if there's any particular reason for reference to the other two.
Posted by: Andrew | March 23, 2016 1:00 PM
I still wonder how Magda was able to make it to Wundagore in the first place and whatever happened to her after she gave birth...
Posted by: D09 | May 29, 2016 10:03 PM
D09: Magda got there by walking and she wandered off into the snow and died shortly after she left the citadel.
Posted by: Bill | May 29, 2016 11:32 PM
Or... Did she? DAH-DAH-DUNH!!!
Posted by: ChrisW | May 30, 2016 12:21 AM
The story of Wanda and Pietro's birth is now discredited. The Maximoffs were born in Serbia, not on Wundagore Mountain.
Posted by: Steven | October 7, 2016 1:28 AM
Eh, ever since the soft reset at the end of Age of Ultron, when the space-time continuum was "broken", we're effectively reading about an alternate reality, so both stories can be "true."
Posted by: Andrew | October 7, 2016 7:01 PM
Also, if that retcon was made after Secret Wars, it's out of scope for the project.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 7, 2016 8:52 PM
Yeah, we're really getting into the weeds here. The Nights of Wundagore storyline in Avengers 181-187 tied everything up so nicely, that I prefer to let it stand in my mind. After Age of Ultron, Magneto and Magda were out of the twins story, and Django and Marya were retconned to be their birth parents (In Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 2). In the new post-Secret Wars Scarlet Witch series, Django and Marya are made to be just cousins, and their mother is a witch named Natalya Maximoff. So they now have 3 "real" (ie, history itself changed) sets of parents and 1 "false" (ie, it was just a lie or misunderstanding) pair (Miss America and the Whizzer).
Personally, I find there's only so much you can mess with continuity before my suspension of disbelief falters, and the stories become less fun and more of a grind. Secret Wars was nice, but it was the last straw as far as I, and apparently fnord and others on this site, are concerned.
Posted by: Andrew | October 8, 2016 8:08 AM
Fnord, maybe you'll start a separate post/SW chronology once you compile the MU as it stands now. Who knows?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | March 23, 2017 3:25 AM
Vin: SW is still a loooooong time away; over 20 more years of books, and I think 1993 is showing us that continuity snarls are probably only going to get worse as time goes on. By the time we get to SW, we should be grateful if fnord isn't in a rubber room wearing a straightjacket.
Posted by: mikrolik | March 23, 2017 11:57 AM
I will be honestly surprised if he makes it through '94. There is like ten years of absolute shit to wade through, with about fifty books a month...good Lord, what a nightmare. I can't think of a single "bright spot" from here on in. Good luck,sir.
Posted by: Adam Dale | March 23, 2017 2:19 PM
I'm sure he'll make it through '94. Not saying he'll finish the job, but I'm sure fnord will make it through '94. '97 or '01 [just picking random years] may be the point where he self-destructs, but I'm confident fnord will make it through '94.
Hell, I don't care. I'm already at the point where I just look at new issues of "Hulk" and old issues of "X-Men" or Lee/Kirby/Ditko. Make hay while the sun shines, boys, because it's already after dusk.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 23, 2017 10:51 PM
The promise of Busiek's Avengers should keep him going through the worst of the 90s past Heroes Reborn. The Chuck Austen era, Civil War, One More Day, or the period when Bendis was basically running the Marvel Universe and mis-writing anything that wasn't a street-level book and introducing questionable retcon after questionable retcon, those are other matters.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 24, 2017 12:01 AM
This is still the only Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch origin that I accept. They're mutants and Magneto's children. I hate the movie-driven changes that undo decades' worth of stories.
I read all of this last night for the first time. It's a decent-enough read.
Posted by: J-Rod | May 14, 2018 10:59 AM
Comments are now closed.
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