Unless you have been living in Monstro’s stomach, you know that the past couple of months have boasted big news for comic book movies. Just this week, three huge stories made headlines in the geek realms, including details about the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the gigantihuge news that Wonder Woman will finally make her big-screen debut, and that the fan-favorite mega-villain, Apocalypse, is very likely to appear in the 2016 X-Men movie. Rock it.
The first two aforementioned bits of news non-comic book fans can probably understand, but the third could leave many of them scratching their heads. They may be asking, “Who/what is Apocalypse?” “Why should I care?” “Why did my fantasy football team lose?” “Why does my wife expect an orgasm EVERY TIME?” and other such normal-people questions. Well, I decided to break Apocalypse down, and articulate what I love (and hate) about the character.
Apocalypse is Marvel’s first mutant: Well, sort of. Within the continuity of X-Men stories, yes, he is regarded as the first mutant. However, chronologically, he was created fairly recently in the X-Men’s publication history, which means lots of mutants appeared in the comics before him. Namor the Sub-Mariner has been retroactively designated a mutant and his stories were first published in the Golden Age, a good 40 years or so before Apocalypse’s first appearance. That’s not confusing, is it?
- The Badass: Apocalypse’s real name is En Sabah Nur which means the First One. He was born in the region which is now Aqaba about 5,000 years ago. Unlike most mutants whose powers manifest at puberty, En Sabah Nur’s mutation was apparent at birth and he was abandoned by his people. Taken in by a band of desert raiders, he was raised to be a warrior and taught the foundations of his belief system. He grew into adulthood and extended adulthood in Ancient Egypt, which included getting into pissing matches with Dracula. Regardless of the details, Apocalypse’s lengthy and often convoluted origins add to the character’s mystique.
- The Blah: Saying that Apocalypse is the first mutant ever born is a pretty silly idea, even for comic book standards. It’s hard to suspend one’s disbelief that any minority, or any group with a genetic variation, can trace the first occurrence of their kind back to one guy, especially when it’s based solely on the word of that one guy. All this is due to the magic of retconning, anyway. His ancient origins were never part of his early appearances in the comics.
Apocalypse has an interesting motivation: Apocalypse embraced a perverted, Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest creed before Darwin was even born.
- The Badass: Apocalypse manipulates populations of humans throughout history, pitting them against each other to weed out the weakest of the crop. When he is finished, he will reign supreme over the surviving race.
- The Blah: Hardly the most concrete plan ever hatched, and his motivations are rather shaky. But there are worse motivations among super villains, so whatevs. How he spends immortality is his business.
Apocalypse wears fancy techno-armor: Apocalypse has a look that blends futuristic and Dark Ages overlord.
- The Badass: Apocalypse’s armor makes him huge and menacing. With all the plating and tubes, an artist can make him tower over any panel, gleaming, with his waste-line “A” providing that bit of classic villain look to him. He is topped only by the Joker for making malformed lips and the color purple frightening.
- The Blah: Apocalypse’s armor is what exactly? According to X-Men: The Ultimate Guide, it is made from his own skin, thanks to his mutation (see below). So, he essentially walks around naked (which actually may belong in the “badass” category). If Apocalypse possesses another’s body, the body grows the armor to resemble his previous form. However, other stories have explained that Apocalypse’s armor is Celestial technology that he stumbled upon in the Middle East. But in the (exceptionally pitiful) story “The Twelve”, he was actually revealed to be a decrepit, old man under a robotic suit. So, which is it, Marvel?
Apocalypse’s power is shape shifting: Besides the ability to mutate other life forms which he acquired through alien technology, his mutant powers allow him to alter his size and form, assume other identities, possess super strength, and even change parts of his body into weapons.
- The Badass: Apocalypse can do anything, not just shape shifting! It seems like with every story, he displays a new power! Mind control? Blam! Energy blasts? Blam! Teleportation? Blam! Ability to infect/control machines? Blam! With such an undefined power set, the writers are unrestrained Apocalypse, conveniently allowing for slippery storytelling not seen with most characters.
- The Blah: Apocalypse can do anything, not just shape shifting! It seems like with every story, he displays a new power! Mind control? Blam! Energy blasts? Blam! Teleportation? Blam! Ability to infect/control machines? Blam! With such an undefined power set, the writers are unrestrained with Apocalypse, conveniently allowing for slippery storytelling not seen with most characters.
Apocalypse is immortal: Apocalypse has played shadowy roles throughout history, threatened multiple futures, and claims to be indestructible.
- The Badass: So far, Apocalypse has put his money where his mouth is. Every time the readers believe him vanquished or destroyed, he rears his ugly head again; the herpes of X-Men villains. Since there are seemingly endless ways for him to resurrect, he remains a continuously haunting presence looming over the X-Men.
- The Blah: Just like his costume and his powers, the method of Apocalypse’s immortality is suspect. Some story lines indicate he is naturally immune to aging, while others portray him using alien tech to regenerate, going into centuries-long dormant states. Other stories explain that he has to inhabit a new body every so often when his current one burns out, like he did with Cyclops that one time. In fact, his latest resurrection attempt has resulted in a young and apparently benevolent Apocalypse to take refuge as a student under Wolverine’s tutelage at the Jean Grey School. So why all of these? If he’s ageless, he should not need to do this other stuff, right? Please clarify, Marvel.
Like his name suggests, Apocalypse often evokes Biblical imagery and themes: Apocalypse is usually accompanied by his faithful “Four Horsemen” and often speaks in paraphrases and corrupted quotes from the Bible.
- The Badass: Apocalypse is one of those characters which can exemplify how comic books might enhance a child’s cultural literacy. A ten year-old kid reads some X-Men comics and then decides to research what the “Four Horsemen” are? A few years later that kid might wind up with a degree in religion. It happened to me.
- The Blah: Well, it…well he…the writers…it is a bit too…no. You know what? There is no “blah” here. This is nothing but badass.
Apocalypse was created by a woman: Apocalypse’s co-creator was Louise Simonson, who took over as writer for X-Factor beginning with issue #5, the character’s first appearance.
- The Badass: Simonson wanted to create a villain for the X-Universe that could rival Magneto in magnitude. It seems that she succeeded, since the character has endured and remained a fan-favorite since 1989. During that time, Apocalypse has had a significant impact on many X-Men and their allies, including Angel, Cable, and Cyclops just to name a few. He also headlined the Age of Apocalypse storyline, an alternate reality that made headlines by replacing the regular X-Men titles in the 90s and creating precedent for similar epic events at Marvel.
- The Blah: You sexist schmuck, there’s nothing “blah” about a woman creating one of the X-Men’s biggest baddies. See you in 2016!