Whether you have been a Marvel fan for 40 days or 40 years you recognize this conundrum of a character. Is she friend or foe? Hero or villain? OK, she’s mostly villain–but the recent use of her in the X-Men movie franchise has bestowed on her far more sympathy and fans than she usually had during her appearances in the comic books. Her origins, while still shrouded in mystery in the comic world, have been very simply laid out in the movies. She’s a mutant. Period.
But there’s far more to her than that. Without giving too much away, she could even be seen as a foundational character in the X-Men world created by Marvel. Her presence is dynamic in the backstories of several beloved heroes of Marveldom. And she is important to the development of several others.
If you’ve only seen the movies or read more recent comics, there are tons of things you could miss about this deep and sensational character. Presented here are 15 of the lesser known facts concerning Mystique.
15. She’s Nightcrawler’s Mommy
This, of course, makes no sense in the movie version but in the original comics, Kurt Wagner is the son of Raven Darkholme (Mystique’s full name) and the other blue-dude from the movies, Azazel. Even without a backstory on them, it’s still easy to see how the combination of Mystique and the tailed, teleporting demon Azazel would produce the acrobatic, evasive hero we know as Nightcrawler. She wasn’t exactly a mother-of-the-year candidate, though, as she allegedly tried to kill baby Kurt by chucking him into a sewer. Later it was discovered that Azazel rescued the child and Kurt was brought up by a foster mother in the circus. Somehow, it’s easier to imagine Rebecca Romijn‘s version of Mystique acting this way versus Jennifer Lawrence‘s seemingly kinder, gentler Raven. Which leads us to our next entry…
14. Jennifer Lawrence Wasn’t Familiar With X-Men
She’s not much of an X-Men fan, apparently, because J-Law never saw any of the other movies before auditioning for Mystique.
Lawrence wasn’t familiar with the other X-Men films when she first auditioned for the part. “I am ashamed to say I auditioned three times before I even watched any of the movies,” she says. “And then after I watched the movies, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been doing it all wrong, why are they calling me back?’ I was doing her all sweet and naive. I saw Rebecca Romijn (who played Raven/Mystique in the X-Men trilogy) and she’s sultry and mean. I know this is an origin story, but I was definitely doing it all wrong.’
Rebecca Romijn’s portrayal was somewhat serpent-like. Even though she is more of a model than an actress, Romijn was able to bring an underlying evil to Mystique’s movements and actions. While Lawrence is a far more accomplished actor, her version has not given off that level of malevolence. That may indeed have been what her directors asked her to do but it’s fairly obvious that they desired her star appeal in the role since she initially mucked up the auditions.
13. She’s Naked
Yes, it’s clear she’s naked when in her natural blue form. But think about it this way: even when she transforms into an apparently fully clothed human, it is her mutation which simulates the clothing. It’s not like she can suddenly search for the appropriate clothing while her body changes into whatever she desires. Therefore we must also wonder if she could actually take the clothing off while in disguise. That would be like you being able to remove your ears and then put them back on, would it not? Then one must ask what would happen if she did take off, say, a coat while morphed and lost it. Would she be missing any body parts when she returned to her natural form? Perhaps we’re thinking on this one too much.
12. Her Age Is Unknown
She could well be older than Wolverine. Wolvie’s quick healing and replicating cells allow him to stay the same age indefinitely. Since Mystique can change her body at will into any age, strength, size and presumably health, her age is pretty much indeterminable. Little has ever been printed about her origins. A few episodes in her career do mention her being an adult many decades ago – as early as 1921. So it is likely that even she cannot recall the actual time of her own birth. If she was born in the 19th or even 18th century, she could more than reasonably be seen as a major reason that some genes which cause her mutation have been passed on to so many others by the 21st century. Of course the comics have evolved into several different planes and dimensions over the years so many of the details are arguable. Still, she’s an important character to be certain.
11. She Wasn’t Originally The X-Men’s Nemesis
Mystique didn’t enter the Marvel Universe battling the Uncanny X-men. She was a regular antagonist of a titular super-heroin named Ms. Marvel. Carol Danvers and Raven battled each other during the original run of the Ms. Marvel comic book. Though she has yet to appear in the movies, Ms. Marvel reportedly will see some screen time in upcoming flicks. Her powers are somewhat like a Supergirl clone: flight, strength, vision etc. She needed all of them in order to compete with Mystique’s ever-changing arsenal of pretty much whatever she desired at the moment. This connection also goes a bit further as in the comics, Rogue was originally a member of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. During one encounter with Ms. Marvel, Rogue’s power-siphoning ability went a bit haywire and she robbed her opponent of her abilities and memories permanently. It was while struggling with this change that Rogue left the Brotherhood for the X-Men and Professor X’s tutelage. This really ticked Mystique off because…
10. Mystique Was Rogue’s Surrogate Mother
Rogue was introduced to movie audiences as a misunderstood girl in her late teens who comes to know about her powers through a series of near-disastrous incidents, where she nearly killed people whose skin she came in contact with. Her connection to Mystique is never really mentioned. Her origin, however, is very dependent upon the shape shifting madame. Mystique found her as a very young girl alone in the woods. She raised her as her own (apparently she only wanted a girl, poor Nightcrawler) and took her in to the Brotherhood. Together they tormented the X-Men for several years before the fateful encounter with Ms. Marvel changed Rogue’s powers immensely and began to twist her mind. Ms. Marvel’s personality and memories flooded Rogue’s brain and left her struggling to control her life. After she sought out Xavier for help, Mystique went from occasional X-Men enemy to full out nemesis.
9. She Was Supposed To Be Featured More In Days of Future Past
One very important aspect which was a little overlooked in the first three X-Men films was the role the Sentinels had always played in making mutant lives miserable. Only in Final Stand was a nod given to the gigantic and dangerous robots which hunted down mutants -both good and evil – throughout the comics. And that was a fleeting glimpse of a huge, detached head falling to the ground in the Danger Room. So it wasn’t even a real Sentinel. Therefore, it was with great anticipation that X-Geeks waited for DoFP and its reported use of the Sentinels in recurring harassment of Xavier’s mutants.
According to X-Men: First Class director Matt Vaughn, the modern Sentinels which attack the students in the present day were originally going to look like huge versions of Mystique. Her adaptability and morphing powers being so important to the evolution of the robots, it was his original idea to make them resemble her. Ultimately, new director Bryan Singer opted to go with a more modified-android look while still granting them the changeling characteristics of Raven herself. Overall, not a bad choice.
8. The Makeup And Costume Are Dangerous
You’ve likely heard something about this before but the level of discomfort and general possibility of harm the actresses who play Mystique endure really speak to the dedication they have to the role. Rebecca Romijn’s version required over a hundred body-fitting plastic prosthesis be adhered to her skin while the bare portions were covered by the blue makeup and color. Near then end of production, it seeped into her body and caused her to throw up – in blue. She had to avoid several foods and beverages, including wine, before her filming days because any change in her body chemistry could affect the plastic molds’ ability to stick to her skin. By the time Jennifer Lawrence took over the part, some of the processes had been refined but she still endured dozens of hours in makeup chairs as well as a specific regimen to keep her blueness intact.
7. She’s Blind
Well, the actress who plays her is blind when in her natural blue state. This is because the special contact lenses she wears while playing Raven leave her vision extremely limited, as little as 10% of what she can normally see. These lenses – made specially for the movies – are also extremely uncomfortable and is has been reported that neither Jennifer Lawrence nor Rebecca Romijn could wear them for more than an hour at a time. That, of course, made for lots of down time as the lenses were sterilized and the actresses’ eyes given time to recover.
6. Amber Heard Almost Got The Part
Jennifer Lawrence’s foibles during the audition process have already been enumerated but she wasn’t the first name thought of anyway. The lovely Amber Heard was rumoured to be first in line as the movie started casting. Apparently Johnny Depp‘s blushing bride did not make it far in the process but she would have made a nice addition to the mutant world. Still, it’s hard to argue that her star power could command anywhere near that of J-Law, whose popularity has soared along with her box-office draw after American Hustle and of course, the Hunger Games flicks.
5. She Might Be A Man
Or…she might not. More fallout from her sketchy origin is whether or not Mystique was born a male or a female. A theory exists that the young Raven (as she then existed) may have simply chosen a female guise to remain in in order to add some stability to her existence. Since no records of her youth are known, this hypothesis is used to explain her indeterminate sexuality as well as provide a realistic basis for her romantic relationships with both male and female characters. She was in love with a blind mutant named Destiny whose talents involved foreseeing future events and in one run of stories, together raised the young Rogue. Some have chosen to believe this may not have been a same sex relationship. That doesn’t seem to matter since if it wasn’t, her coupling with Azazel and others would have been.
4. Mystique & Professor X
Here’s where things get really odd. Since comics all have multiple story lines, planes of reality and universes, many running simultaneously, it’s difficult to talk about an influential character like Mystique in black and white terms. So, while most of us tend to think of her as a ruthless leader and foil to Charles Xavier’s X-Men, in other versions of the comic, she has been shown as his sister and his wife. A recent story arc called “Battle of the Atom” throws a huge wrench into the works when, after Charles dies, his will is read and Mystique herself is named as his wife. This brings so many things into question it is best left to the prolific comic readers to sort out and pass judgement. Still, one shudders to think at the power of a child born to the preeminent psychic and the wily shapeshifter.
3. She’s More Powerful Than She Used To Be
While Raven’s relationship to Charles as his adoptive “sister” is entirely Hollywood the movies have stayed true to one of her original features (or problems). Raven initially was quite limited in her shapeshifting abilities. If you’re only familiar with her cinema persona, you might notice that she never morphs into a Grizzly Bear or shrinks like Ant Man. That is entirely accurate as Mystique’s powers were completely limited to imitating human beings. No explanation was ever given but it was obvious to those who paid close attention. Eventually even that changed. In a later story called X-Men Forever, she is dowsed with a huge amount of radiation, whereby increasing her morphing ability greatly and allowing her to change size, mass and even species. As if she needed help being creepy and dangerous, this brought her villainy to a whole new level and refreshed a character which had become a little predictable.
2. Yet Another Child
This woman (man) gets around. We’re familiar with Sabretooth in two different guises: the anthropomorphic version which was very poorly fleshed out in the original trilogy and Liev Schreiber‘s far deeper, scarier and more lethal version which first popped up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But old Sabes and Raven were quite a bit more familiar with each other in the paper versions. They got together and produced a fully human son named Graydon Creed who, as all children do, grew up to evince hatred for his parents and their kind as the leader of an anti-mutant group called The Friends of Humanity. Um, Raven, based on your history it might be a good idea to look into a new invention called the pill.
1. She Used To Work For The Government
As we alluded to earlier, Mystique isn’t the typical comic villain. She has alternately fought and befriended the X-Men numerous times over the decades as well as being a somewhat sympathetic character in several aspects. She even changed her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants into a group of Super Heroes known as the Freedom Force. It seems Uncle Sam offered some legal benefits to the team in exchange for their services and the outlaws leaped into the agreement with relish. Why not? If you’re trying to regenerate your reputation from a group seen as evil, crooked, thieving scum, what else would you do but go to work for the most corrupt institution in the history of earthen civilization? It didn’t last long, of course. Once they heard about the disturbing arrangement Mystique and her buddies had made with the U.S. government, all the reputable villains and criminals would no longer speak to them.