Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I feel like if there is a single character in the X-Men canon that has been frequently misused and reinterpreted by various writers, this is it. I’ve been a fan of this character for a long time- his complicated backstory and every individual writer’s habit of reorganizing his personality with little regard for the way previous writers have portrayed the character has forced him into relative obscurity. Who the hell am I talking about you ask? Alex Summers. AKA Havok. He first appeared in X-Men # 54 in 1969-as Scott Summers’ brother. It wouldn't be until four issues later that he would appear as his own man in X-Men # 58. Like his older brother, Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Alex is kind of a walking mutant energy “battery.” It might not look like it at a glance, but some might consider Alex’s power even more debilitating than his older sibling’s. Alex’s backstory begins as one synonymous with his brother’s. Alex and Scott’s father was an Air Force test pilot. By a strange mishap, a plane carrying the Summers family actually collided with a Shi’ar scout ship. Alex’s parents pushed the two boys out of the plane, giving them the only spare parachute. And with that, the Summers brothers became orphans. (Sidenote: but not really. Scott and Alex’s father, Christopher Summers, actually survives the plane crash and goes on to lead the Starjammers- sort of a bunch of intergalactic pirates/bounty hunters/Robin Hood-esque doo-gooders- under the name Corsair.) The energy thing clearly runs in the Summers family, and some could argue that Alex got it the worst. Alex’s body constantly absorbs and retains cosmic energy. I can’t quite confirm this, but "cosmic energy" may refer to the same form of radiation that gave the Fantastic Four their powers, or even that cosmic heroes like the Silver Surfer and Quasar draw on. Don’t quote me on that. His body stores the energy for a time- but sooner or later he needs to release it. This mutant power allows him to dispel the energy in the form of super-heated plasma. He has to be careful to focus the release into a single blast- otherwise plasma will jet out of his body from all possible angles, blanketing friend and foe alike. Physically, it’s exhausting for Havok to focus his blasts- if he becomes fatigued, he tends to lose control and release the energy in an omnidirectional blast. Alex is also immune to the plasma he generates. In addition, his older brother’s concussive force blasts don’t harm (or ‘push’) him. A sort of genetic fluke, Scott also happens to be immune to Alex’s powers. Over the years, his fine control over his abilities has improved substantially. He can fine-tune the release of energy from his body so that it’s minimal- practically undetectable to the human eye. The end result is the dosage of plasma released just gives an intended target a headache (instead of, you know…getting burned/blown up). He's often even used various containment suits to help him focus and restrain his mutant power. Alex and Scott walked away from the trauma of losing their parents mostly unscathed, but they both ended up in an orphanage in Nebraska. Unfortunatley for both of the boys, the orphanage happened to belong to one Nathaniel Essex- A.K.A. Mr. Sinister. A fanatical geneticist, Sinister tampered with both boy’s lives- and genetic structures- unchecked. He even took steps to bury the memory of such tampering within both brothers' psyches. Sinister took considerable pains to inhibit any potential for Scott to use his powers against him (it seems- emphasis on seems- like Scott’s power is one of the only things on the planet that Sinister is afraid of). What most people don’t know is that he also hired a young boy to bully and provoke Alex once he had reached puberty, hoping to manifest any latent mutant power. It worked- Alex incinerated the hired goon in one hot minute. Sinister repressed this memory, however, and took steps to repress Alex’s X-gene as well. While Scott went on to lead the X-Men, Alex lived a somewhat normal life blissfully unaware of his own mutant potential- until college. It’s a long weird story, but Alex had a run in with another cosmic-radiation-driven mutant named Ahmet Abdol, or The Living Monolith. Abdol tried to use Alex’s powers to bolster his own. The X-Men came to the rescue and Alex’s mutation re-emerged. Eventually, Alex became an X-Man- although he has often functioned as more of a ‘reserve’ member than a full-time one. Most notably, he’s had a long- and often tragic- romance with fellow mutant and teammate Lorna Dane, A.K.A. Polaris (rumored to be Magneto’s third child, by the way). Alex’s relationship with the X-Men has always been lukewarm. He’s been an on-again off-again member, who has always seemed somewhat reluctant to be involved in Xavier and his brother’s affairs. I’d like to think the reasons why are complicated, and are, to me, the essence of the character. Look at it this way- A. Alex’s power is dangerous, and on some level he’s always known it- repressed memory or not. B. Alex has had more of a ‘normal’ life than his brother- at least, through the first half. He’s giving up a lot more by joining the X-Men C. Alex is insecure on any team with his brother on it. Alex tends to be a natural leader- but it doesn’t always shine out so clearly because he’s insecure. Being around his brother doesn’t help matters. Like every little brother, he wants to distinguish himself. Alex’s frustration with his life is subtle- but make no mistake, he’s got to be in the top ten mutants who have suffered the most. The full scope of his history is way too long to address here, but a couple of interesting notes- At one point, Lorna’s body was possessed by a particularly nasty Marauder (Sinister’s mutant-hunters) named Malice. Malice was particularly adept at playing on Alex’s fear of hurting others- let alone the woman he loved. For me, the ultimate bizarre-tension between Alex and Scott happened during the Inferno storyline of the 80s, and didn’t necessarily involve an out-and-out fight. Again, weird long story, BUT- Sinister managed to create a clone of Jean Grey, named Madelyne Prior. At a time when Scott though Jean had died, he had met and married Madelyne (this was a good thing in Sinister’s book, since he wanted to ‘breed’ the two). Later, upon Jean’s return from death, Scott abruptly abandoned Madelyne. Now, granted, Alex- and pretty much everyone in New York city- is under a great deal of demonic influence during Inferno, but Alex ends up shacking up with Madelyne. So, you know- he slept with his brother’s ex-wife. Who was really just a near-identical clone of the woman who was his brother’s current wife at the time. Does sibling rivalry get creepier than that? At some point, Alex ‘died’- only to end up traveling through a bizarre alternate marvel universe. These adventures are catalogued in the comic that was known as Mutant X, which I like to describe as “What If…?" on crack.