Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Jason Powell on Uncanny X-Men #201

[Guest Blogger Jason Powell continues his issue by issue look at Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. For more in this series, see the toolbar on the right.]


The first half of this issue features Claremont very much in his precious mode. Material such as Rachel getting tickled by Nightcrawler, plus all the cooing over Madelyne and Scott’s newborn baby, might grate on readers who lack a sweet tooth. Those of us with enough of an affinity for cutesiness can find plenty to enjoy, however: Colossus’ line to Logan while they’re all gathered around the baby, “To think Wolverine – you, also, once looked like that,” is quite a lovely character bit, for example.

Other sequences are irredeemably awful by any standard – in particular Rogue’s confrontation with Ronald Reagan, which is just cringe-inducing.

And then there are a few questionable attempts that sort of walk the line – Nightcrawler tickling Rachel is silly, but Tom Orzechowski’s rendering of Rachel’s word balloon elevates the potentially stupid moment into something rather elegant just on the level of craftsmanship.

Cyclops is a complete jerk once again. How anyone can interpret his scenes with Madelyne differently is mind-boggling. In Uncanny #201, he presumes that Madelyne will quit her job as a pilot so that she can raise the baby – pretty much solo, apparently – while he goes back to being leader of the X-Men. When Madelyne points out with stainless logic that she’s the one with skills and a paying career, and that the X-Men seem capable of getting by without Scott, he has no response. He departs the scene without a word to his wife and goes to fight a duel with Storm for leadership of the team. He’s incredibly unkind – which primes the character perfectly for writer Bob Layton’s treatment of him in X-Factor #1, wherein Cyclops leaves Madelyne in Alaska and heads straight to New York when he learns Jean is alive. He deigns not to tell Madelyen where he’s going or why. He then spends two weeks in New York by himself, but never once calls his wife in that time. These are not the actions of a hero. From this point on, the character is destroyed.

Claremont may just be playing by the rules – writing Cyclops with an eye toward how Bob Layton will write him in X-Factor (which debuted contemporaneously with Uncanny #202). But he does the job too well. Claremont has complained in interviews of how X-Factor ruined Scott as a character, but Claremont – thanks to his writing both here and in the previous issue – is undeniably complicit in that crime.


Anagramsci said...

well, I agree that any of the nonsense that Scott pulls before discovering that Jean is alive seems like gratuitous character sabotage (although it does a good job--probably way too good of a job--of laying the groundwork for his flight into the past...)

still, I'm sure I'm in the minority here (everything I've written about superhero comics has been aimed at eliminating the concept of "heroism" from the discussion), but I don't see why Cyclops SHOULD be a "hero"... can't he just be a fuck-up with eye-beams?


Gordon Harries said...

You know, I used to read a lot of X-men in my early teens and Scott was always my favorite character (although I always, always thought there should have been more of a rivalry with Alex. My --admittedly vague-- memory of there relationship was of the presumption being that Alex was the lesser Summers brother and Alex stupidly agreeing with that.)

But, given that much of contemporary recent X-men has been about reinvigorating Scott as a character (Millar said as much with Ultimate, I believe that Morrison has made statements to that effect, Whedon’s Astonishing could be read as a love letter to the character and the current X-office has stated many, many times that Scott is now the ’alpha male’ of the X-franchise.) is this where the character was effectively sidelined?

I’m really enjoying these, by the way. Keep up the good work.

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

I agree. No offense to Geoff or any of the other regular contributors, but your X-Men analysis is the thing I most look forward to at this blog. It's fascinating.

The Havok/Cyclops sibling rivalry is my favorite thing about Havok, and why I've always loved the character. I've always read it as being a rivalry that existed largely in Havok's head, with Cyclops being (and this again can be read as consistent with his character, especially at the stage Jason's at now) sort of oblivious as to why his brother seems pissed.

Gordon Harries said...

Hi Matt,

I think that my frustration stems from the fact that Alex/Havok was never moved past that point (there were attempts; he became leader of X-Factor --for longer than Scott was, if I recall-- but felt he remained in Scott’s shadow. Marvel radically had him go rouge at one point and then retconned it so he hadn’t been bad, he’d simply been undercover. Hell, he was even shunted off into another dimension at one point.) ultimately he seems to be somewhat like Peter (from Heroes) more of a link charecter than a charecter unto himself.

Jason said...

I was worried that this entry would seem gratuitous after the comments/conversation following the issue 200 blog (I write these way in advance, which means they can't react to the commentary on previous entries) ... but the conversation is continuing, so that's good!

David, I am still trying to resolve this issue in my mind. I'm pretty much coming around to agreeing with you, I think: Cyclops as a kick-ass superhero and tactician but still emotionally messed up person is working for me.

There's a Classic X-Men backup story that contributes quite a bit to the "fuck up with eye-beams" version of Cyclops. It's written post-"Inferno" but meant as a prologue to it: Essentially we see Mr. Sinister in the orphanage with young Scott Summers, screwing with Scott at every opportunity. His motivations aren't quite explained, but there is a strong implication that he is the alter ego of a fellow orphan, one who is quite possibly in love with Scott and wants him all for himself. The first bit (that Sinister is really a kid) has been confirmed by Claremont in interviews as his vision for the character. The idea of a homosexual love for Scott is my own reading, confirmed nowhere, but I can't let it go. It explains why Sinister didn't want anyone else to love Scott, and it also gives a new wrinkle to Sinister's whole plan with Madelyne. Sinister wanted Scott for himself so he created a red-headed woman to seduce Scott and bear Scott's child, letting Sinister live out his fantasy vicariously.

One could even extend this to Sinister's other odd motivations, like the Mutant Massacre. It occurs shortly after Scott dumped Madelyne. How freaky would it be if the Mutant Massacre were actually just one giant, horrible temper tantrum on Sinister's part at being, by proxy, rejected by the man he loves?

I digress. I was talking about Scott. In the Classic X-Men backup, we see Scott almost get adopted by a kind of perfect couple (this is years before Xavier would find him). Sinister manipulates events so that not only is the couple killed, but Scott is made to think that they simply dropped their application to adopt, abandoning Scott once again.

Claremont's intent here is show that during those crucial developmental years, Scott was abandoned over and over by anyone he dared to get close to. This basically "damaged" Scott to the point where he became the one who abandons in his adult relationships. (Consider that Death of Phoenix would have seemed like another "abandonment" and that just before Scott left Maddie, he himself had been abandoned by his surrogate father, Professor X.)

What did Douglas call this? "A piece of jewelry made of found objects"? Yeah, true, it's a patchwork of different ideas borne out of different editorial and external factors. It is not quite organic, but that is part of what makes the X-Men so fascinating. As opposed to something like Cerebus, which had Dave Sim in control for 300 issues, Claremont was *mostly* in control of X-Men, but constantly remodeling and re-shaping because of different editors and artistic collaborators. The resulting mosaic is weird, but also wonderful.

Final point being: I do like screw-up Cyclops, and I think the Classic X-Men backup (it appeared in Classic X-Men #'s 41 and 42, if anyone's curious) does a better "repair job" on Cyclops than "Inferno" did.

But speaking of "Inferno," THERE was some good Havok material. Claremont's Havok as developed from around issue 219 to 251 is a great character, very much out of Scott's shadow for a lot of the time, and when he DOES interact with Cyclops (in the "Inferno" crossover), it creates some powerful bits. I quite enjoy Alex's righteous rage at Scott's treatment of Madelyne. Alex's rage at that point comes from two explicit places: 1.) his rivalry with Scott, of course; and 2.) his own newly developed affection for Madelyne. The two threads get wound together by Alex's own loss of Lorna. Consider: Alex had a perfect romance, and it was ruined by external forces. He'd never have left Lorna, but he lost her. His brother meanwhile (whom he always looked up to) had a similarly perfect relationship, and *willingly* threw it away. Alex's rage at that scenario is so relatable (and perfectly expressed by the visual "power signature" that always denotes his superpower). I adore the moment in "Inferno" when Havok confronts Scott with all that anger: "You swore an oath, Scott ... " [closeup on Alex's eyes] "... and you LIED."


Finally, just a fun bit of trivia: In X-Men #65, one of Alex's earliest appearances, Denny O'Neil's script includes Scott having a thought balloon about how Alex seems to be a more natural leader than he is. "I shouldn't resent Alex's obvious ability ..." he thinks. "... but I do." It's the first example in the X-Men comic of sibling rivalry between the Summers brothers, and it goes the opposite way of how their dynamic eventually became codified.

Gordon and Ultimate Matt, thank you for the compliments! Always appreciated.

Jason said...

Also, wow, once again I didn't talk at all about the departure of Xavier. Don't know why I ignored that. Maybe it's still coming ... ? (Xavier is in issue 203 after all -- it's after THAT one that we really don't see him in Uncanny for years.)

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with Alex's portrayal in Inferno is that nobody seems to realize that Alex failed Maddie as badly as Scott did. Consider-when he first starts getting attracted to Maddie she's a compassionate,strong woman. But he only starts sleeping with her when she gets turned into a bad girl. He leaves her alone with a man who helped kill dozens of people (Gateway).He's too self-absorbed to notice obvious clues that something is wrong with her. What we should have seen after Inferno is scenes of both brothers blaming each other for what happened to Maddie. But that didn't happen.
And Alex arguably did betray Lorna before he started sleeping with Maddie- he tried to kill her when she was possessed by Malice because he was afraid Malice would make her kill other people. Of course Maddie didn't see that as a betrayal- she saw that as Alex trying to protect Lorna, which is what Scott didn't do for her. This is why I think Inferno was a mistake for Alex's characterization. Before Inferno, it seemed that starting with Alex saving Maddie on the ridge, Alex was becoming more assertive. He was often the voice of reason and morality on the team. He symbolically emasculated Scott by taking over his role as comforter and protector of Maddie.Now, a sane Maddie torn between Scott and Alex would have been interesting. Instead, Harras insisted that Maddie go crazy,and if Alex was trying his best to save Maddie from turning into the Goblin Queen, Scott would just look worse. So, Alex gets turned into a weak character, becomes Maddie's boytoy and spends the rest of Claremont's run as a screwup.

Anonymous said...

Sinister screwing with young Scott is one of the retcon attempts I mentioned. And one of the better ones. But IMO it goes too far; that version of Scott would have turned out a villain, or at least profoundly screwed up. That childhood is so /very/ horrible that it's not really consistent with the Scott of the Cockrum-Byrne years, who is neurotic and broody but at the end of the day sane and likable.

Also: Claremont abandoned the whole "Scott as sexual submissive" subtext from the Dark Phoenix period. Which was a shame, because it was a pretty interesting take on his character: consistent with his development up to that time, and also appropriate to his power and its limitation. It got revived many years later in his relationship with Emma. Which wasn't a bad idea -- because, goodness knows, if that's your kind of thing, she'd be your kind of gal -- but by that time the character had been through so many changes that it hardly made much sense any more.

I've said it before: Scott started revving up for his first shark-jump as soon as Madelyne Pryor showed up. The whole "Vertigo" plotline for her was just a really dubious idea -- and, dammit, she just wasn't that interesting a character at this point, whatever she evolved into later. I'll say this, though: there is a sort of dopey consistency between Madelyne's first appearance and this denouement. Once we accept that Scott is an emotionally disconnected doofus who'd fall head over heels, fast, for someone who just looked like Jean... well, if that's how a copy will affect you, what /will/ happen when the real thing shows up again?

BTW, I'm surprised nobody has commented on the most profoundly stupid aspect of this issue -- viz., powerless Ororo beating the crap out of Scott. I thought this was just awful at multiple levels -- implausible, contrived, untrue to the characters, and just plain dumb. This issue helped bounce me from "regular reader, occasional buyer" to "read in shop, sometimes".

(Which is why, BTW, I won't be around so much in the weeks to come -- my reading is about to get spottier, and there are whole story arcs from the late '80s that I just completely bailed on.)

Doug M.

Jason said...

Doug, I can't say I agree about the idea that someone with such a miserable childhood would've come out as a villain or just "profoundly screwed up" (presuming that by that phrase, you mean worse than how he was portrayed in the comics). Lots of people have crap childhoods, lots of them overcome it. And in terms of *how* a person deals with childhood crap (and we've all had some of it, right?), I think Scott's portrayal works well. A fear of abandonment seeded in as a reason Scott fails at romantic relationships makes sense, and I don't see that it would need to infect him to the point of villainy, or make him completely unable to relate to people socially.

But I can't get on board with the idea that a person who goes through childhood traumas like what we see portrayed for Scott in X-Men is -- as a foregone conclusion -- not possibly going to be "sane and likable" as an adult. (And that does seem to be what you're saying, though correct me if I misinterpret.)

I never have been bothered by the Ororo/Scott duel, though many others do seem to cite this as a shark-jumping moment for the series. It makes sense to me -- Scott is distracted by Maddie and it makes him perform poorly in the duel. Never struck me as problematic.

Michael, those are interesting points. It's interesting how often and how many of the characters in X-Men fail specifically because of editorial edicts. Claremont's nature seems to be toward more redemptive stories, yet because of the forces outside of his control, a lot of his long-term arcs ended up tragic rather than redemptive. I'm not sure they're weaker for that, necessarily. Scott's failures around this make for compelling reading; Magneto's return to villainy circa issue 275 is also very powerful. Add to the list Havok's love for two women and his failure to save both of them, which is to me is one of the more interesting aspects of the character's arc.

(It occurs to me now that this "superhero and his two women" construct is almost archetypal, going back to the Superman/Lana/Lois triangle. I suppose it actually has its roots in sources far older, but it's intriguing that the first superhero has that as part of his mythology, and that we can see it put to use in Claremont's X-Men, particularly among the X-Men's "alpha males." Cyclops has Jean and Maddie; Wolverine has Mariko and Yukio; Havok has Polaris and Maddie. Hm. An academic paper waiting to be written!)

Matt Jacobson (formerly Ultimate Matt) said...

Considering just how dramatically different in tone this book would become in a year, year and a half from this point, the Storm/Cyclops battle could even be taken as a literalization of the book's modern direction, now solidified, completely dismissing its past. Or something.

Someone smarter than me needs to make sense of that comment. I think I had a point of some sort.

Anonymous said...

A larger point is that both Scott and Alex start out as strong males in their dealings with Maddie and wind up becoming emasculated.
In X-Men 175, Maddie is basically the damsel-in-distress, who Scott has to defeat his whole team to save. In X-Men 201, Scott is beaten by a powerless woman and later fails to protect his wife and child.
In X-Men 223-227, Alex is the strong male, comforting and protecting Maddie. In Inferno, Alex is turned into Maddie's submissive boytoy.

Jason said...


I think that is absolutely true. In a lot of ways, Uncanny X-Men 201 is the end of the Silver Age X-Men, in many ways the conclusion to the story begun in the original X-Men #1. Professor X (the man who appears on Page One, Panel 1 of X-Men #1) leaves the planet, the school is taken over by their reformed Silver Age arch-enemy (from X-Men #1), and the last of the five original X-Men, Cyclops, leaves the team.

There are two other candidates for what I consider the end of the Silver Age X-Men.

The next is issue 203, two issues later, a big cosmic return to the M'Kraan crystal (Claremont's first major X-Men epic), wherein Rachel redeems the Phoenix by sparing the universe.

The last is issue 209, which also brings a lot of things crashing together for one last hurrah, but more on that when we get to that blog entry.

I did mention that X-Men issue 101 actually serves as kind of an "X-Men 101," a quintessential issue that contains all the elements of a Claremont X-Men issue. So I suppose it is appropriate that X-Men 201 features such an interesting turning point, with the past jettisoned and a look toward the future.

(And X-Men 301 was Geoff's first issue, as I recall. Coincidence?)

Jason said...

Michael, that is indeed interesting. Funnily I was just arguing recently with somebody online about Claremont (it's all I do, apparently, be it on this site or others) about Claremont's tendency to make the men submissive to women. The guy I argued with it called it cheap feminism, or "fake feminism," which I think is too easy a dismissal.

(I'm reminded of an anecdote I read about how the actresses in the X-Men movies were impressed and pleased that unlike most superhero comics, the X-Men franchise has so many women who are as tough and/or as interesting as the men. I love that.)

Gordon Harries said...

On the subject of the Scott/Ororo fight (it’s interesting, isn’t it, how X-fans seem to refer to these character by their Christian names? I don’t know that you see discussions about Avengers books, for example, where Cap is generally referred to as ’Steve’)

Two explanations occur to me:

The first is that Ororo is a street kid, whereas (my impression is that) Scott’s always been presented as more privileged. Therefore she can take him.

The second suspicion is that Marvel editorial/Claremont may have had issues with their boy scout assaulting a powerless/defenseless woman. (of course I was reading a recent Fraction issue wherein Scott is inside his head navigating his way through the woman he’s liked and many of them are variations of Storm. Perhaps a third way has been retconned in?)

Jason: on the issue of damaged childhoods leading to adulthood misanthropy, I’m with you that many people do overcome their childhoods (in whatever sense they may have to) and become productive people. In comics though, abusive childhoods almost always lead to tortured lives. (Miller’s take on Daredevil, for example, circa ’Man Without Fear’ was that Matt Murdock should be a villain and cited an abusive childhood as one of the reasons why.)

neilshyminsky said...

And there's always the retconned answer to why Ororo beat Scott - it was because Maddie was using her latent telepathy to cause him to lose.

Jason said...

Gordon, surely it's significant though that the second part of Miller's thesis is that even though Daredevil's abusive childhood means he "should be a villain," what's impressive about him is that he is a hero?

Is there a reason that Matt should overcome his crappy childhood but Scott shouldn't?

And yeah, the real names, go figure. Claremont probably fostered that -- the X-Men call *themselves* by their real names a lot, moreso perhaps than other comics? (Chris Claremont's first prose novel is dedicated to "Kurt, Logan, Ororo, Scott, Jean, Kitty, Peter, Alison," etc. He seems to have thought of those characters as, to some degree, *real* people, and that carried over into readers' perceptions, I think.)

Anonymous said...

Okay, let me unpack a little.

1) Sure, in the real world people do overcome all sorts of horrors. But in a superhero comic-book context, yes, a childhood that relentlessly miserable almost always leads to villainy or extreme screwed-up-ness. I'm trying to think of exceptions but I can't come up with any offhand. (There probably are some, sure. Comic books are a vast sea.)

2) Keep in mind how this evolved over time: relatively sane and likable Scott of Cockrum-Byrne years -> screwed up Scott of mid-late '80s -> retcon explanation of Sinister's torture and manipulation. The problem here is that the tormented and miserable orphan we see doesn't seem a good candidate for growing up into the odd, somewhat repressed, but overall sane and decent character we saw from 1976 to 1982.

Notice that most of us have ignored the Silver Age version of the character. Not sure if that's because nobody takes the Silver Age iterations of the characters too seriously, or because Cyclops in particular was so... unmemorable. But if you include them, the problem gets worse; how do any of these Scotts relate to the cheerful, rather talkative young man of the Roy Thomas years? The Cockrum-Byrne version was just barely plausible as a more mature version of this guy, but the others... no.

Doug M.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have just come up with a retcon that explains pretty much everything. I offer it to any X-writer who might care, gratis.

* * *

Scott /is/ deeply screwed up, and in about six different ways. He's repressed but prone to bursts of rage; he's plagued by attacks of self-doubt and depression; he has a streak of compulsive Judas; about his sexuality, less said the better.

But! Xavier, discovering the miserable young orphan, took pity on him and... fixed him. Keep in mind this was Silver Age Xavier, who was perfectly happy to use his powers to wipe the minds of entire towns free of inconvenient memories. This is the guy who installed "psychic blocks" in Jean Grey without going to the trouble of asking her permission or telling her first. Why would Xavier let this poor child suffer so, when with just a few tweaks he could become a brave, loyal leader of the new mutant generation?

Thus the chipper, clean-cut Scott of the first 50 issues or so.

Now, notice: over the years, Scott's personal problems have been roughly inverse to his relationship with Xavier. The Professor is close at hand, and they're getting along, Scott is okay. The Professor is off in space (or in a coma or being a villain or whatever), or he and Scott are at loggerheads... Scott tends to slip. It's not a perfect correlation, but it's definitely there. Possibly this is because Xavier needs to occasionally monitor and reinforce his work; possibly it's because Scott himself draws strength from the Professor's benign presence, the blocks getting stronger on their own when he's around. Works either way.

Note that this explains why Scott keeps falling for telepaths: subconsciously, he knows he can only be long-term stable and happy around someone who can mess with his mind. In a relationship with a non-telepath, he'll eventually backslide into weak, treacherous Bad Scott. Seen in this light, his abandonment of Maddy, though still reprehensible, makes sense; after a couple of years without his telepathic fix, he's like a diabetic slowly dying for lack of insulin.

It's left as an exercise for the student whether his telepathic girlfriends are meddling with his mind consciously; meddling with it unconsciously (surely a hazard in such relationships); or whether it's all psychosomatic on Scott's part. But note that modern-day Scott is (1) in a long-term stable relationship with the White Queen, and (2) AFAICT from occasional sampling, the most "sane and likable" he's been in 20 years.

Thank you. Tip the waitress, please.

Doug M.

Gordon Harries said...

Jason: well, I think that there’s a strong argument made to suggest that Matt/Daredevil didn’t overcome his abusive childhood but simply learned to navigate the emotional terrain that comes from having those kind of experiences. (the abusive childhood escalated too. There was a time when Matt’s father hit him ONCE and it so shook the young Murdock that he decided to embark upon the law as a career, by the time you get to the returning Miller --and certainly the Bendis/Brubaker axis-- is a full blown abusive relationship.)

But I suspect that the awnser to your question lies in the fact that Matt has always been presented as someone having an endurance contest with his past: he will simply not allow it to diminish him, when everything suggests that it would.

Anonymous said...

I never had a problem with Ororo beating Scott in their duel. For one thing, it's proof that then-powerless Storm can be an X-Man, and lead the X-Men. She's tough, fast, smart, resourceful, and clever. She doesn't need powers to be a superhero, it comes from her natural abilities. Observe any of the stories where Superman loses his powers, yet still perserveres. The mind and heart make the superhero, not necessarily the super powers. I'd also like to think that a sufficiently trained and prepared "normal" person can take out a superhero in a fight. I think of characters like Elektra, Nick Fury, Yukio, Night Thrasher, Punisher, Silver Sable, Dominic Fortune, Paladin, Black Cat, Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, or Black Widow who can be superheroes without super powers. If they all can, why not Storm?

Anagramsci said...

interesting conversation--but I'm a little perplexed by this talk of a chipper Silver Age Summers!

As written by Lee and (especially Thomas) the guy's leading (only?) characteristic, aside from his repression-induced premature sense of "responsibility"/leadership, was his tendency to dwell infinitely upon the destructive power of his eyebeams, to the point where he managed to keep Jean at arms' length for more than three years, despite the fact that the pair's thought balloons indicated, very clearly, that they loved each other... Scott acts EXACTLY like fellow damaged good-guy Matt Murdock during this period... brooding, pushing the woman he loves at other people, worrying that he doesn't know how to have fun (sadly, he didn't go the Murdock route and MAKE UP A SWINGIN' TWIN BROTHER!)


Anonymous said...

Doug, I'm not sure if I'd call Scott likeable now. He didn't want Wolverine to go after Nitro and DeClun during Civil War because it was just humans killing humans .He created a death squad, hid it from Emma, and when she questioned him about his secrets, took advantage of her guilt about the deaths of her students to make her stop asking. He even was ready to send people to kill Cable based on flimsy evidence.

wwk5d said...

"gives a new wrinkle to Sinister's whole plan with Madelyne. Sinister wanted Scott for himself so he created a red-headed woman to seduce Scott and bear Scott's child, letting Sinister live out his fantasy vicariously."

Er, huh? Sinister/Cyclops slash fanfic isn't my thing, but even if it is an interesting idea that doesn't work. Maddie was just supposed to be a Jean substitute. Sinsiter wanted a child with Scott and Jean's DNA. Jean was dead. So he concocted Maddie in a lab. End of story. And did they ever reveal why Sinister wanted the Summers/Grey child? I mean, before the 90s Cable/Apocalypse retcon...

I also don't have problems with the duel. To me, Storm is just as much an excellent leader and badass as Scott, even though most of the current writers (Millar, Whedon, Fraction, Morrison) don't agree with me. Ah well.

Too bad Claremont made Scott a bit too unlikeable in this issue, but as I wrote in the comments for the last issue, had this been his last appearance, and he and Maddie were written out and X-factor never happened, I wouldn't have minded. But, knowing what's to come for both of them does leave a rotten taste in the mouth...

NietzscheIsDead said...


As originally written, Sinister figured out that a Summers/Grey child would grow up to be a Franklin Richards-level mutant. So, since he couldn't get his hands on Magneto/Xavier/Franklin Richards, he settled on making a Summers/Grey baby and then manipulating it for its whole life until it served his purposes (knowingly or unknowingly). This was part of Claremont's intention for Sinister: since he was, if not immortal, then extremely long-lived (Claremont estimated a lifespan of somewhere near 1000 years), then he would be willing to create a new child and then raise it to adulthood to further his plans. That amount of time is an investment, sure, but not a game-changer like it might be for normally-lived mutants.