December 1, 2022

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #331: Cypher

A mutant deliberately given noncombat powers ends up being one of the most X-Men around.

The X-Men were intended to be a school of mutants learning to use their powers.  It was a superhero universe, so naturally they became superheroes.  But there’s no rule that says all mutants have to have superpowers that are good in a fight.  In fact, many mutants have powers that are at least a little questionable.  That’s the basis for the Morlocks after all.

But then there was Cypher, and his powers, initially seen as a drawback, ended up being fully realized as something much more impressive down the road.

Premiering in New Mutants #21 in 1984, Doug Ramsey seemed at first glance to be a talented kid when it came to computers and that was about it.  However, Professor Charles Xavier had a different idea, theorizing that Doug had a mutant power that had something to do with communication and eventually put the young man on the “New Mutants” team, a team of younger kids that wasn’t supposed to go into combat but see the first paragraph for this column.

It turned out Doug actually was a mutant with something that might best be termed omnilinqualism.  Doug could understand any language, whether spoken or written, up to and including computer languages.

Of course, that meant when he and the New Mutants inevitably met up with bad guys, Cypher would tend to take cover behind a tree or something.  That actually made him the least popular member of the team…for the creators.  Louise Simonson, longtime writer on New Mutants, said as much as, given the nature of his powers, Doug tended to mostly stand around and sometimes acted as a translator.

So, they gave him a friend!  Warlock, the alien mutant from the Technarchy, an off-shoot or cousin race or something to the techno-organic Phalanx, came to Earth and befriended Doug because, well, Doug was one of the few people on Earth who could literally talk to him.  Since Warlock could alter his shape into, well, anything, he ended up protecting Doug when things got hairy.

See? They flew around and stuff.

However, Doug’s lack of fighting ability didn’t help, and he was killed by the evil Ani-Mator.  Magento, the New Mutants instructor at the time, actually had Doug’s death as one of the things that haunted him the most for the longest time.

Of course, this is comics, and Warlock did have some sort of ability to absorb things.  Could he do that to Doug, bring him back as some sort of hyrbrid being with himself?  Sure!  But he didn’t…right away.  Warlock himself was killed by anti-mutant asshole Cameron Hodge, but after the Phanlanx unsuccessfully attacked Earth, the DNA of Cypher and Warlock managed to merge into a new being named Douglock who was convinced he was a new being and not the combination of two others.  That eventually changed and Warlock emerged as the main personality with Doug’s translation powers.

But then some big thing involving bad mutant Selene resurrecting a bunch of dead mutants brought Doug back to life, and he managed to stay that way.  Plus, he realized his communication powers worked on body language, making him a much more effective hand-to-hand combatant.

So, he has a sword now?

So, it looks like Cypher can fight now, and he’s bounced around a bit until the current X-Men status where all the world’s mutants moved to the living island of Krakoa.  There, Doug Ramsey managed to get one of the most important jobs on the island:  he’s one of the few mutants that can actually talk to Krakoa.

Oh, and he still seems to be infected with the same techno-organic virus that was part of Warlock.  That…could cause problems later.  But for now, he’s the guy people can talk to…and that may be about that.

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