On Episode 5 – The Retcon that Walks Like a Man, we met Gabriel Summers, and did a very quick drive-by introduction to the Summers family and their really depressing space adventures. Because this shit is complicated, Rachel,* the resident Summers Family Continuity expert, has put together a brief visual guide to Gabriel’s backstory. Click through for the origin of the third and worst Summers Brother:
Meet Scott and Alex Summers! They’re brothers. Their parents have just pushed them out of a burning airplane. Scott and Alex are going to crash in a minute and then have awful childhoods, but all you really need to know for now is that they’re going to become X-Men when they grow up.
Meet Mister Sinister! He’s a creepy, creepy man who knows even more about the Summers family than Rachel does (and that’s a lot). In 1993, Mister Sinister let slip that Scott and Alex might have a third brother, and for over a decade, pretty much every orphan in the Marvel Universe had “probably a Summers brother” stuck on to the end of their official bio.
But in 2005, X-Men: Deadly Genesis came around. Deadly Genesis was a straight-up retcon of 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1. It also—finally—resolved the question of the third Summers brother.
Meet Christopher and Katherine Summers! They’re Scott and Alex’s parents. They’ve just thrown Scott and Alex out of a burning airplane, then gotten abducted by aliens. This part of the story has been X-canon since the ’70s—but what Deadly Genesis reveals is that Katherine is pregnant. Christopher gets sent off to the slave pens, and Katherine ends up a Comics Code-compliant-analogue-to-concubine of the evil space emperor. Christopher breaks out and tries to free her, but he’s caught, and Katherine—and apparently her now-nearly-to-term fetus—are killed. (Christopher later becomes a space pirate named Corsair, which is awesome but irrelevant to this particular story.)
Meet Fetus Summers, who turns out to be viable after all! He gets rapid-aged by means of Fancy Space Science, named Gabriel, and sent to be a slave of the Shi’ar’s representative on Earth. Later, his powers manifest and he kills the only person who was ever nice to him, then escapes into the sewers with nothing but his favorite book of Roman myths and a case of dramatically expedient amnesia.
Gabriel gets picked up by Dr. Moira MacTaggert—Professor X’s ex—and becomes one of her group of teen mutants in training, under the code name Kid Vulcan. X consults—and, in the process, pieces together Gabriel’s history but doesn’t tell anyone, in keeping with a long tradition of lying to Scott about the existence of his living relatives. Professor X is a dick.
To confirm his theory, X brings Scott out to train with Gabriel for a day—but still doesn’t tell either of them that they might be brothers. (Gabriel’s powers, incidentally, have to do with energy manipulation and redirection, which his how he can do that with Scott’s eye beams.)
When the X-Men are all captured on Krakoa (the Island That Walks Like a Man!), X convinces Moira’s kids to go rescue them. Immediately before they leave, he tells Gabriel that Scott and Alex are his brothers. The new kids rescue Scott, and Gabriel tells him that they’re brothers. Scott’s super beat up and his powers are broken, so the new kids leave him and go to rescue the rest of the captive X-Men—but instead, they all get killed.
Scott returns to the X-mansion, understandably distraught. X decides the most expedient course of action is to totally wipe Gabriel out of Scott’s memory. Did I mention that Professor X is a dick? Professor X is a dick. When the new X-Men return to Krakoa to rescue the original team, he continues to mess with their perceptions to support this version of events.
What X doesn’t know is that Gabriel and his teammate Darwin are actually still alive, so when the X-Men launch Krakoa into orbit, Gabriel and Darwin go with it. They get stuck in stasis for years, in space. OOPS.
Later, Gabriel wakes up pissed, comes back to earth, kills Banshee, kidnaps Scott and Scott’s alternate-timeline-future-daughter (I know, I know. Just run with it.), and forces Professor X to show them what actually happened. Darwin—still in stasis inside Gabriel—is extracted and revived, Gabriel flies off to fight an evil space empire, and absolutely no one lives happily ever after. X-Men!
Giant-Size X-Men #1. Prepare for forty years of riffs on this cover.
The best-dressed mob in Germany.
And THAT’S how you punch a tractor.
“Oh, y’know. Fight crime, see the world, get your memory rewritten every few weeks, maybe go on a really fucked up date with Dracula…”
When Xavier finds him, Thunderbird is literally wrestling a buffalo to death.
Sunfire’s first appearance, in X-Men #64.
Most of the New & Different X-Men get a full page or two to join the team. Banshee? Two panels. He’s just that chill.
“Think you can just walk away, Wolverine? We’ll come after you with our deadliest weapon yet: Alpha Flight crossovers!”
Wow. You… certainly made some choices there, Professor.
Sunfire is absolutely delightful.
At this point, I’m pretty sure he’s just messing with them for fun.
This is the second of three times Sunfire calls Nightcrawler “Misfit” on one page–which is actually a pretty welcome break from the X-Men referring to each other exclusively by ethnic epithets. Len Wein, DON’T DO THAT.
This is pretty much the platonic ideal of an X-Men fight scene: teamwork, cool powers, and narration busting Kool-Aid-Man-style through the fourth wall.
Fun fact: Polaris will later go on to get an advanced degree in geophysics.
“You know… stuff?”
We see what you did, there.
Moira MacTaggert has opinions about retcons.
Introducing: The Worst Summers Brother
“Hey, kids, want to be superheroes?”
It’s worth noting that Moira’s team’s emergency psychic training regimen includes a Hostess Fruit Pie ad callback.
They are so doomed.
It’s almost like you live with a telepath who messes with people’s memories all the time.
Wait, what? But that’s not how it…
…oh. That explains some things.
Damn, X. That’s cold.
Professor X: Master of the retcon, worst surrogate parent ever.
In which the Bronze Age begins; Dave Cockrum is your god now; the band gets together; Sunfire joins the team; cultural sensitivity is not Marvel’s strong suit; Sunfire quits the team; it sucks to be Cyclops; Professor X crosses a moral event horizon; Sunfire joins the team; Ed Brubaker channels Thomas Hardy; you are probably a Summers brother; and Sunfire quits the team.
Giant-Size X-Men #1
The worst hat of the Marvel Universe
The Mostly-New, Mostly-Different X-Men
A business-casual angry mob
The limits of creative good intentions
Tractor punching on the Ust-Ordynski Collective
The correct spelling of “fine”
Sunfire’s utter disdain for everything, including you
Krakoa: The Island That Walks Like a Man!
Characteristics of good X-fights
Yet another miracle of magnetism
X-Men: Deadly Genesis
Summers Family Continuity (Introductory)
The Muir-MacTaggert Research Facility
Summers Family Continuity (Intermediate)
The Charles Xavier Scale of Supervillainy
What would you do with thirteen X-Men?
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You can find a visual companion to the episode – and links to recommended reading – on our blog.