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What If... A Black Supervillain
A Marvel Race Fiction For Today
Since I digest all kinds of sci-fi, I am watching Disney+. Their latest entry is a Marvel series called ‘What If..” Some time ago prompted by the Black Panther film, I thought about black superheroes and that even rarer thing, black supervillains. Not that I’m even close to a comic book aficionado, but I’m thinking it not bloody likely that we would find a black supervillain absent a black superhero. (Go ahead, Google ‘black evil genius’). Of course Sam Jackson is an exception (Kingsman, Glass & Unbreakable). As far as I know, only Sam Jackson gets to be the exception. All that notwithstanding, I figured I’d try my hand. And it goes a little something like this:
Martin Mphele Mortigan - The Sickle: Origin Story
Martin Mphele Mortigan was born on Earth in 1989 in Pretoria, South Africa. His father, Karl Mortigan a research biochemist who worked at the Karistaadt Institute in South Africa, was poisoned in an industrial accident when experimental biochemical blood agents infected him. Mortigan, a white haired, green eyed man, who was vain and proud of his striking appearance was devastated by the possibility that this infection might hinder his ability to have children. His assistant, Ava Mphele, a striking beauty and an agent of Wakanda nursed him back to full health. Despite her tender care, Mortigan still felt defective. He couldn't bear the idea of making the white haired, green eyed woman of his dreams pregnant with on the chance that any lingering effects might be passed on. Ava looked nothing like his ideal. He had previously flirted with Ava, but was in fact racist. She took none of that, but cared for him after the incident, still working undercover to discover secrets of Karistaadt. They married under false pretenses. He to cover the lie of his profound insecurity, and she to stay undercover. Neither felt any great love until their son Martin was born.
Martin showed no signs of illness through his youth and in fact was preternaturally curious and quick. He inherited his mother's kindness and concern for all people and her dedication to healing people and his father's emerald green eyes. He graduated high school with high honors in chemistry, following in his father's footsteps and was admitted to John's Hopkins University in the USA. In his freshman year he came across many racist Americans who had not undergone the bloody strife of South Africa. His biracial heritage caused a constant state of confusion to his classmates.
His roommate, a black American, Kevin Smart an upper middle class suburban, became radicalized by the racist rantings of Big Malcolm Johnson aka BMJ, an ex-felon who grew up in the ravaged ghettoes of Baltimore. The riots over police brutality set things off. Kevin Smart encouraged Martin to join the All African Union, a student group, into which Martin's intelligence gave an aura of respectability. One day, running track, which was Martin's best athletic skill, he started feeling weak and collapsed. He was admitted to the hospital at Johns Hopkins where the doctors suspected Sickle Cell Anemia. He reluctantly took the test, feeling it to be a racist diagnosis. But the results were positive. It was the one thing his father never checked for.
Karl Mortigan had always told his son he was an outstanding human specimen. It was the highest compliment he could muster as an actual racist. The discovery of this defect chilled them both to the bone. Martin confronted his father on Spring Break and learned the truth about the industrial accident. His father now completely contrite and unable to face the truth commits suicide leaving his family broken, his mother's heart and his son's optimism. Martin returns to John's Hopkins with a fierce determination, assisted by his mother, to cure all blood borne illnesses. Over the next few years he becomes one of the greatest biochemists the school has ever seen, developing new theories about blood, curing himself in the process.
One day Martin developed the courage to search the labs at Karistaadt and discovers a deep secret passed on to them by the Nazis who, under Red Skull, successfully copied the Super Soldier Serum - Type B, which was a prototype of the final version. This was the secret that his mother had worked many years to find. She reported back to Wakanda, but still never revealed her identity to Martin. Ava Mphele was racked with guilt after Karl Mortigan's suicide. She was the only family Martin had, and could not tell him her marriage was just part of a spy mission. The Type B serum was not permanent, plus it had a unique side-effect that produced hallucinations. These visions were desired by the Nazi scientists who sought to bring occult powers to the Third Reich. Martin experimented on himself, frustrated that he couldn’t improve on the serum that develops super powers lasting only a week then fade. But his unique blood chemistry has the side effect of rage and paranoia that accentuate the hallucinations. In addition to the super solider strength he develops the ability to instantly identify any sort of disease, virus, germs and chemical contamination anywhere. But he fears this power and abandons work on the Type B Serum. Instead, he develops his own genetic splicing with mammoth and walrus tusk DNA to create super bones. These bones are extra tough and generate more blood. He now has the power never have broken bones or to bleed out. Purely defensive.
In all this time, Martin never considers that he might want to be a hero. He is wary of police and does not wish to be violent. Still, his mother grows wary of his secret experiments and sees in Martin worse aspects than his father. Eventually, they have a falling out. He returns to the US and meets with his old roommate, Kevin Smart. He now sees that Smart and Big Malcolm Johnson are idiots and have no idea what they're talking about. He says their minds are polluted and their blood is probably polluted. Smart caves and admits that he doesn't know and accepts that he is polluted and self-hating. BMJ challenges Martin to a fight. Martin accepts but is beat half to death until one of his delusional episodes kicks in. Martin kills BMJ in a paranoid rage.
As he serves time in prison, Martin is a loner and is once again beset by the racial divides of America. The black prison gangs won't accept him because of his green eyes. The white prison gangs won't accept him because of his dark skin. He calls them all inferior and challenges them all to fight. As many times as he is stabbed and beaten, he never looses enough blood to blackout. After only two months behind bars he becomes even more tough and cynical. Now having killed four inmates, he is transferred to a super max facility. He escapes by overpowering guards and runs overnight to the exurbs of Baltimore. He hides out in a barn and overhears the news that his mother was murdered in a crime. It breaks his heart and his spirit. Seeing everything around him as filthy and contaminated, he lives in the dirty streets near Johns Hopkins, and works in their labs stealthily reproducing the Super Serum Type B. He modifies it to become permanent and takes the dose.
Martin is approached by the evil Baron Zemo who recruits him into the Masters of Evil by revealing that the Baron’s own grandfather ran the laboratory that originated Serum B and promises Martin access. Baron Zemo reveals to Martin that his mother's murder was actually not random but an assassination by the CIA against Wakanda. Martin is stunned as he suspected and never knew that his mother was a Wakandan agent. He is betrayed again and falls into another paranoid rage, almost killing Zemo. Zemo recognizes that Martin must be controlled and set on the path of a super-villain. Martin now feels betrayed by the entire world, but has no focus as a villain. He is haunted by his hallucinations and wants to burn the world of its impurities, and so Zemo placates him and helps him build the Sterilization Protocol, a chemical agent under the control of Martin's mind that can be injected into any living being and transform their chemistry.
Martin recalls his cure of Sickle Cell Anemia that used (secret sauce) to change the shape and functions of blood cells. He generalizes this in Zemo's laboratory and then develops a delivery system built into his own hybrid bones. He now has fists that can inject the Sterilization Protocol into anyone he punches. He is now the deadliest brawler ever. He wanders the backstreets of Berlin and goes into dive bars picking fights. He flies into a rage and destroys his opponents leaving them with festering wounds and deformities. Finally he meets up with Berlin police who try to arrest him. He will now target all police in the world. He is THE SICKLE.