ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a film-and-TV fan who grew up with a deep love of superhero comics! Follow me on Twitter @TomABacon or on Facebook @tombaconsuperheroes!
Tom Bacon

The DVD and Blu-ray release of X-Men: Apocalypse confirmed what #XMen fans had already suspected: that the villain of Wolverine III (likely to be titled Wolverine: Weapon X) is a classic X-Men villain who calls himself Mr. Sinister! But who is Sinister, and why is he the villain of the film?

The Origin of Mr. Sinister

Sinister gather his Marauders. Image: Marvel Comics
Sinister gather his Marauders. Image: Marvel Comics

Mr. Sinister is one of many characters created by the legendary Chris Claremont. Tired of treading the same old ground, Claremont worked with Dave Cockrum to create a brand new opponent for the X-Men. The original concept was that Sinister was actually an immortal child from the orphanage where Cyclops grew up, who'd become frustrated with his eternal childhood. The look, the face, even the code-name were all based on what would scare a child.

As is often the case, the comics ended up taking a different route. Years later, we'd get the origin of Mr. Sinister as a colleague who worked alongside Charles Darwin. Obsessed with the potential for sudden leaps in evolution, Nathaniel Essex began to conduct experiments that the Royal Society would not condone. He was cast out of the scientific community, becoming a pariah. Ironically, in comics his ideas were close to the truth; he was stumbling upon the science Marvel used to explain the existence of mutants like the X-Men.

Sinister has always been obsessed with Nathan Summers. Image: Marvel Comics
Sinister has always been obsessed with Nathan Summers. Image: Marvel Comics

Unfortunately for Essex, Apocalypse woke from a centuries-long sleep at around the same time. Seeing in Essex's ideas an explanation for his own power, Apocalypse sought him out, and took on Essex as an ally. Although two X-Men travelled back in time to intervene (Cyclops and Jean Grey), Essex was still transformed by Apocalypse. He became an ageless being of tremendous power, able to manipulate his atoms and possessed of tremendous psychic ability. To Essex's horror, though, his wife rejected him; she died in his arms, condemning him and declaring him 'sinister'. So Nathaniel Essex took upon himself the identity of Mr. Sinister, embracing his wife's curse, and abandoning all that had ever been good about him.

The Philosophy of Mr. Sinister

A powerful enemy. Image: Marvel Entertainment
A powerful enemy. Image: Marvel Entertainment

Sinister believes in one thing: evolution. He has dedicated himself to mastering evolution, and to controlling the development of the human race. For many years, his particular focus was on Cyclops and Jean Grey; that vision of them as time-travellers convinced him that they represented the future of the human race. He took in the young orphan who would become Cyclops, and ran a whole orphanage designed to be a crucible for the young mutant.

The real crisis for Sinister came when Jean Grey was believed dead; Sinister actually created a clone, Madelyne Pryor! He orchestrated matters so Madelyne and Cyclops met, fell in love, married, and had a child together!

Mr. Sinister's Importance in the Comics

The Marauders are particularly dangerous. Image: Marvel Comics
The Marauders are particularly dangerous. Image: Marvel Comics

Although Sinister's comic book history has strong ties to Apocalypse, he tends to stand apart. Sinister is the quintessential maniacal scientist, dedicated to controlling human evolution. In the early 20th Century, he stumbled upon Wolverine and Sabretooth; he found in those two mutants more hints of what was to come. Some dialogue in the comics subtly suggests that he worked as an agent of the Nazi regime. When the Nazis were defeated, the US Government offered many Nazi scientists a chance to work for them; it's likely that this is how Essex became so embroiled in clandestine US experiments. There have been some hints that he was part of the Weapon X project, responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton and claws.

Often inscrutable, Sinister tends to gather agents around himself - particularly his brutal Marauders. He's mastered the art of cloning, and if a Marauder dies, then he simply creates a clone. We eventually learned that he wiped out the mutant community known as the Morlocks because of experiments being conducted by another evil scientist, Dark Beast. An alternate-reality version of Hank McCoy, Dark Beast was using science he'd learned from his world's version of Sinister; the mainstream version took radical steps to maintain control of the technology.

An example of the Dark Beast's work. Image: Marvel Comics
An example of the Dark Beast's work. Image: Marvel Comics

For all his evil, Sinister's goals - the control of evolution - have sometimes led him to serve his own twisted version of good. He worked hard to cure the so-called 'Legacy Virus', an HIV-analogue that targeted mutants. When the majority of the world's mutants were depowered by the Scarlet Witch, Sinister sought to restore the mutant race; his approach brought him into head-on conflict with the X-Men.

Mr. Sinister's Relationship to the X-Men

Sinister conronts Cyclops. Image: Marvel Comics
Sinister conronts Cyclops. Image: Marvel Comics

Sinister is one of the X-Men's most dangerous foes, largely because of his scientific acumen. He's been a dark figure watching over mutants throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries; he even experimented upon the young Charles Xavier, somehow foreseeing his power. Sinister's vendetta against Cyclops and Jean Grey is the stuff of comic book legend.

In the comics, Sinister has a dark and ambiguous relationship with Gambit. When Gambit's powers first developed, Sinister conducted an operation to stop them killing him; in return, Gambit helped Sinister gather his Marauders. As is always the case, what was done in the dark would eventually be brought into the light; this revelation led to a breakdown in the relationship between Gambit and Rogue. Gambit and Sinister have crossed paths many times since.

Why Is Mr. Sinister the Villain of Wolverine III?

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. Image: 20th Century Fox
Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. Image: 20th Century Fox

At first glance, the decision to use Sinister as the main villain of Wolverine III seems odd. He has a few small ties into Wolverine's backstory, but he's more associated with Cyclops and Jean Grey! That said, there's one thing that makes sense of this decision: Sinister is skilled at cloning.

We know that Wolverine III is Hugh Jackman's last bow, and the film will introduce us to X-23 - a female clone of Wolverine. All this means that the movie needs a supervillain who has mastered that science. Sinister makes perfect sense.

We know X-23 is on her way! Image: Marvel Comics
We know X-23 is on her way! Image: Marvel Comics

The continuity of X-Men: Apocalypse means that Sinister's historic connection to Apocalypse has to be abandoned in Fox's film. It's entirely possible that Nathaniel Essex will be completely redesigned - he may not even be a mutant! All we know for sure is that the end-credits scene for X-Men: Apocalypse revealed "Essex Corp" were tied to the Weapon X Project, and that they had access to Wolverine's genetic material. This will evidently lead in to Wolverine III, with X-23 created from those samples.

It's likely that the part will be played by Richard E. Grant. We already knew he'd been recruited to the film to play a "mad scientist", and - as Screen Geek was the first to note - he seems to be a perfect fit for the character. That casting choice at least suggests that the Fox version of Sinister is still British.

See also:

X-Men fans had long since worked out that Sinister was the villain of Wolverine III; the "Essex Corp" nod had tied to the X-23 plot to make that pretty clear. I confess that I'd prefer him to be appearing in one of the tentpole X-Men films - I can see so much potential for his being used against Sophie Turner's Jean Grey - but I understand Fox's rationale. It's a logical choice.

Do you think Mr. Sinister is the right villain for Wolverine III? Let me know in the comments!

Ominous! Image: Marvel Comics
Ominous! Image: Marvel Comics