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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

Today’s guest bloggers are Thomas Shepherd and his twin brother William Kaplan. They were conceived by Steve Englehart for the maxi-series The Vision and the Scarlet Witch, which ended with their birth (#12, September 1986). John Byrne reconceived them in Avengers West Coast (#51, November 1989), retconning them out of existence. And then Brian Michael Bendis rereconceived them back into existence in New Avengers (#10, February 2006). Their genealogy is equally convoluted, but I’ll let the twins explain:

Our father used to be the Human Torch, a Frankenstein-derivative android who burst into flames in 1939 before fizzling in the late forties.

Two decades later, an evil robot rebuilt his burnt-out body, and he lived another two decades as the Vision.

But then the original Torch erupted from a secret grave, so now Dad wasn’t him but a copy soldered from his spare parts.

Only, no wait, that’s not it either, because next it turns out the Vision and the Torch really are the same person but split in two when a time-traveling supervillain manipulated their timeline. For a while the Vision half was dead and his identity may or may not have been inhabiting the sentient armor of the evil time-traveler’s non-evil teen-age self.

But that was before Iron Man reassembled the original Vision from the scraps She-Hulk made of him after he’d been reprogrammed by our mom to destroy the Avengers (our parents had a really bad divorce). And don’t get us started on whether his/their synthoid body is the kind with buzzing wires and clanking pistons or the kind with synthetic organs that gurgle and fart.

So does that mean our grandfather is Kang the Conqueror (the time-splitting supervillain), Phineas Horton (the Human Torch’s inventor), Ultron (the evil robot—in which case, Henry Pym, AKA Ant-Man, the guy who built Ultron, is our great grandfather), or Wonder Man? Sorry, forgot to mention Wonder Man. Ultron used his brain patterns to erase the Human Torch’s memories and personality from the Vision’s synthetic brain. There’s also that other Vision, some weirdo from another dimension who came here in the 1940s to fight crime, so I guess Ultron used his name and look for spare parts too.

Our mom is the mutant Wanda Maximoff, AKA the Scarlet Witch, and her side of the family is even worse. For a while we thought our maternal grandparents were Miss America and the Whizzer, two Golden Agers who ran with that other Vision guy. It made sense, since the Whizzer and our uncle Quicksilver have the same superpower, plus all that mutating radiation Miss America got hit with.

But then it turns out, no, actually Magda, the gypsy wife of Max Eisenhardt, AKA Magneto, secretly gave birth to Mom and her brother in some Eastern Block country called Transia. Magda died, and so they were nannied by a lady with a cow’s head, who the god-like High Evolutionary made. Bova tried to pass the babies off to the Whizzer after his wife died giving birth to a stillborn, but he freaked out and split.

Mom and her twin brother went back into suspended animation for a while, then High Evolutionary thawed them out for Django and Marya Maximoff, who named them Wanda and Pietro.

Villagers thought Mom was a real witch and drove her out with pitchforks, and then her real father Magneto adopted her and Quicksilver into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Only, no wait! That’s not it either, because now it turns out the Maximoffs really were their parents, but instead of being mutants, they’re just normal humans that High Evolutionary experimented with. So that’s four sets of grandparents just on Mom’s side.

But if High Evolutionary is our grandfather, then the elder god Chthon is too. He was the Devil before Lucifer drove him out, but he preserved a part of his essence in Mom, which is how she got some of her probability-altering “hex” powers. Since it was her hex powers that allowed her to conceive us, we must be part-Chthon. Though some of that hex stuff must have been High Evolutionary’s mutant-like alteration, so, subtracting our temporary adoptive grandpas Whizzer, Magneto, and Django, we still have two different kinds of reality-bending grandpa magic in our genes. Unless it really was Mom’s channeling the “Magick” of the witches of New Salem when she got pregnant, like she thought at the time. Dad was holding onto her, so when the Magick circled them, his DNA was in the mix too. (Some of the witches of New Salem looked like High Evolutionary’s animal-people, but I think that’s just one of those weird coincidences.)

But, no, hold on, instead of Magick or Chthon essense or High Evolutinary’s mutant-like hex powers, it turns out my brother and I were really pieces of Master Pandemonium’s lost soul, the one he traded to get  superpowers from Mephisto (another Devil but not the same Devil as Chthon). Mom grabbed onto them by accident when she was wishing us into existence. When Master Pandemonium got hold of us again, he turned us into evil hand puppets and shot flames out of our mouths.

That sucked. But then Mephisto showed up, and guess what! We weren’t pieces of Master Pandemonium’s lost soul after all—Mephisto just made him think that.

We were really lost pieces of Mephisto’s lost soul, which got shattered by Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic’s little boy, Franklin Richards—a kid who, believe it or not, is even more messed up than we are. Since Franklin’s the one who fragmented us into existence as soul pieces, I guess he’s our grandfather too.

Anyway, we only existed when Mom was thinking about us, which meant when she was in the middle of a battle or knocked-out we would fade away—which apparently freaked out a few babysitters. Mephisto stole us back from the Master Pandemonium, but then our mom’s mentor Agatha Harkness came back from the dead and defeated Mephisto by erasing Mom’s memory of us. That didn’t last though, because after a version of Kang—not his teen-self  but another version named Immortus—filled her with even more superpower, she goes all crazy and de-mutants most of the planet because she’s so upset we never existed. That’s around when she reprogrammed Dad too.

Only, guess what? We do exist! Because when Mom rebooted things after going crazy, she unknowingly rebooted us too. That time she used the extra power Kang-Immortus gave her, so now he’s on both sides of the family tree, which sounds incestuous but isn’t. Instead of giving birth to us again, Mom sent our reincarnated selves out to be born to completely different mothers. That’s why Tommy’s last name is Shepherd and Billy’s is Kaplan.

So even though we are identical twins, we have three mothers, four fathers, five paternal grandfathers, six maternal grandmothers, eleven maternal grandfathers, and no paternal grandmothers.

Or at least we did until the Marvel universe was wiped out in 2015. Now we don’t exist again, and our parents don’t know who any of us are or were or will be next. How do you draw that on a family tree?

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