The ability to create instant clones of yourself, and have only the skills and powers you already possess, may not sound like much in the grand scheme of things. You can make a bunch of otherwise normal guys. Congratulations. Now go stop Galactus.
But that skill can be a lot more handy than you realize if you’re smart about it like Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.
Jamie Madrox was born in New Mexico near the Los Alamos nuclear research center. At birth, the doctor gave him the customary slap and suddenly there were two of him. Thus was born the Multiple Man.
See, Jamie’s powers are as follows: any sort of kinetic energy hitting him has the potential to create a copy of him. The new Jamie will be wearing the same clothes, carrying the same items, and have all the knowledge and skills of, for lack of a better term, Jamie Prime. The “dupes” as he calls them are more or less autonomous from there. He doesn’t really direct what they do once they pop out too much, so he’s not exactly a hive mind. They tend to want to do what he needs done when he makes them, but the longer a dupe exists on his own, the more independent he becomes. Dupes can die, but they can also create more dupes if there’s that kinetic impact. His upper limit may be 50 dupes, or a lot more depending on the story.
Keep in mind, that “duplicates everything” bit can be problematic under the right circumstances. If Jaime here handcuffed and made a dupe, the dupe would also be handcuffed. Sometimes it means if one breaks an arm, they all might. But that’s maybe getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
Later, Jamie can reabsorb the dupes back into himself. He can somewhat heal himself when injured by reabsorbing a healthy dupe, healing half the damage to his body every time he does so.
Now, until Marvel decided there weren’t enough Inhumans running around, it used to be that people just born with weird powers were automatically labeled mutants and that was that. That was true for Jamie too. He had a somewhat tragic childhood when his parents were killed by a tornado when he was 15, but he was able to create his own company after that so it may or may not have been so bad depending on how you look at it. After moving to New York City, he eventually hooks up with Professor X and moves to Muir Island where he becomes Moira MacTaggert’s lab assistant.
See, this is all well and good. Jamie can make an army of normal guys. How exciting. That is until the ramifications are considered. An army of single-minded opponents with even some skills can potentially overwhelm a large number of superheroes. In various stories where Jamie is corrupted or just on the wrong side, the only X-Man who seems capable of bringing him down without too much trouble is Iceman, since all Bobby Drake has to do is freeze Jamie in place such that he can’t move or get hit. But give the right creator a character and they can come up with good twists on said character.
One of those creators is Peter David, a longtime Marvel writer who has made something of a career of taking second or lower string heroes and making them interesting, often by tweaking the premise somewhat. He got ahold of Jamie for a run of the X-Factor series, and then later got ahold of him again for a second run, and he had some interesting ideas on the implications of the Multiple Man’s powers.
For example, what happens when the Multiple Man jams a hand or finger in an opponent’s mouth and creates a dupe? Well, you got a dupe standing in a pile of guts, that’s what.
What happens when a dupe learns things Jamie doesn’t know? Jamie picks up those skills and knowledge when he reabsorbs the dupe. Jamie learned to use that one to his advantage, particularly when he managed to infiltrate both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra with dupes. About the only thing Jamie can’t or won’t do is reabsorb a dead dupe. That’s probably for a good reason.
And then there’s the sex question. One night during David’s second X-Factor run, when Jamie was running a private detective agency called X-Factor Investigations with a number of other lesser-known mutants, he got up as a dupe and managed to seduce two of his teammates, Siryn and M. It later came out that Jamie had no idea once he reabsorbed the dupe whether Jamie Prime or a dupe had sex with either of the women. He actually managed to impregnate both of them, but M being M realized it and ended the pregnancy right away using her poorly-defined mental powers. Siryn, on the other hand, carried the child to term and gave birth to a baby boy. Jamie’s a happy father, Siryn’s a happy mother, and then Jamie picked up his infant son for the first time.
Then he reabsorbed the baby. He couldn’t stop himself as much as he wanted to. The baby was a dupe, and once reabsorbed, ceased to exist. That didn’t go over well with Siryn, but it did answer the question of whether or not she slept with Jamie Prime. See, dupes can only create other dupes, so a Jamie dupe that impregnates a woman will only create a new, baby dupe that the father can never come into physical contact with. One long absent dupe who’d become a minister figured that out and his kids were adopted.
But the thing is, because he has an endless number of potential bodies, Jamie is often used as cannon fodder for big storylines. He died of the Legacy Virus only to have the real Jamie pop up again later, and recently he died of the current Inhuman-caused plague where Terrigen Mist clouds just kill mutants. He’ll probably be back again, once someone remembers he might not be a mutant.
That was something else that came from Peter David. Mutants gain their powers at puberty. Jamie had his at birth.
So, what is he?
Well, dead at the moment. I’m sure he’ll get better and maybe then we’ll find out.