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The Weird History Of Caliban

In the new movie Logan, Wolverine and Charles Xavier are facing down the worst enemy ever: their own mortality. Well, that, and the usual army of bad guys looking to exterminate them and any other mutants. But they have an interesting new ally: the mutant known as Caliban, played by Stephen Merchant (who wrote for The Office), who has the gift of being able to sense the presence of mutants that are close by, as well as use his enemy's fear as an energy weapon against them. But what's the history of this walking mutant radar?

He starts off as a very sympathetic character

Caliban's story starts with his father (who gave him the name from the hideous creature in Shakespeare's Tempest) kicking him out of the house for the mere sin of looking creepy and weird. Despondent, he hides away from the world, eventually meeting another mutant named Callisto. The two team up and use Caliban's tracking skills to build a community of mutants called the Morlocks, who live in the underground of New York and shy away from interacting with the outside world.

In his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #148, he knows he's different from most humans, but he isn't really sure what's going on. He emerges from the underground in hopes of finding a friend like him, following his senses toward the other X-Men, who are trying to enjoy a night on the town. Unfortunately, Caliban's appearance causes a mass panic and prompts them to come down on him.

He has a thing for Kitty Pryde

During his chaotic club battle with the X-Men and Spider-Woman, Caliban kidnaps Kitty Pryde with the intention of taking her back to the underground and making her his new best friend, but he's stopped by the X-Men. Things didn't end there for Caliban though, because he fell in love with the Shadowcat.

The relationship would start again later in Uncanny X-Men #169 when Callisto provokes the X-Men by kidnapping Angel. During the X-Men's initial response, Pryde is poisoned by one of Caliban's fellow Morlocks. Caliban freaks out when he realizes she's close to death, and Pryde offers to stay with him forever if he helps the X-Men defeat Callisto. Caliban agrees to the deal and subsequently does turn on Callisto, allowing Storm to defeat her and usurp control of the Morlocks.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Kitty doesn't hold up her end of the bargain, which allows Callisto to strike again in Uncanny X-Men #179 by kidnapping her and forcing her to marry Caliban as she promised, in order to fight the X-Men one more time. But Callisto's scheme falls through. Caliban finally takes the hint that Kitty isn't into him that way and lets her go, allowing them to become friends.

He's been a good guy and a bad guy

If you're forming a team to fight evil, maybe don't pick Caliban. He's changed sides more than a Paris supermodel changes outfits. You probably shouldn't pick Caliban if you're forming a team to create evil, either. Caliban eventually joined the X-Factor (the original X-Men under a different roof) and stayed with them for a time, but he became dissatisfied with his lack of power.

Eventually, when the X-Factor came up against Apocalypse in X-Factor #24, Caliban saw Apocalypse transform Angel into one of his Four Horsemen and realized he had a shot at getting the strength he wanted. He turned on the X-Factor and asked Apocalypse to make him powerful in exchange for his service. Apocalypse accepted the deal and turned him into the Horseman Death, aka Hellhound, which gave him enhanced speed and strength and made him much more savage than he had ever been.

Caliban would eventually break loose from Apocalypse's control and rejoin the X-Men, but Apocalypse kidnapped him back and reshaped him into the Horseman Pestilence, granting him the ability to inflict telepathic sickness on others. After Cable defeated Apocalypse, Caliban was freed again and hasn't returned to his evil ways in the comics since. In all the various Marvel media, Caliban flits back and forth from good to bad constantly, until now in Logan, where he's working with Wolverine and Xavier.

He has serious beef with Sabretooth

We mentioned that Caliban did eventually join the X-Men, but what it took to get him there was pretty extreme. In X-Factor #51, the Morlocks are nearly wiped out by the Marauders, a group of mutant assassins under the command of Mister Sinister. Caliban would have been among the dead if the X-Factor hadn't saved them and he joined them as a result. Thing is, Caliban's later turn to darkness was rooted in one of the Marauders that tried to kill him: Sabretooth.

Anyone who's seen the X-Men movies knows that Wolverine and Sabretooth had a pretty intense rivalry, but they ain't got nothing on Caliban and Sabretooth. One of the first things Caliban does upon getting his new Horseman tuneup from Apocalypse is to track down Sabretooth, beat him down, and break his freaking back, Bane style. The only reason Sabretooth got out alive was because of his healing factor, which Caliban overlooked.

Later on, in Uncanny X-Men Annual #18, Caliban kidnaps another X-Man named Jubilee to try and force the X-Men to bring Sabretooth to him, who they were working with at the time, ending in another fight between the two. Another time, Caliban is caught by the X-Men beating down a helpless Sabretooth, who had previously been stabbed in the brain by Wolverine and was unable to fight back.

He and Professor X teamed up (sort of)

Not many mutants can hang with the legendary Charles Xavier, but amazingly, Caliban did end up in the company of the ones who could. During Uncanny X-Men #190-191, the X-Men take on a powerful sorcerer named Kulan Gath, who is better known as one of the toughest foes of Conan the Barbarian.

Although Caliban wasn't anywhere near this fight, he still got dragged into it in the strangest way possible. Kulan Gath's reality warping powers temporarily fused both Caliban and Professor X together through magic. So, if only for a minute, Caliban shared the body and mind of Professor X, one of the greatest mutants in the universe. Another one for the resume.

He still gets used even after dying

It may be a running gag that death is never truly the end for any comic book character, but Caliban's most recent appearance in the comics came after the old creep with the scythe got to him. After he took a bullet for his fellow X-Force members in New X-Men Vol. 2 #45, he stayed in the ground for only a little while before the vampire-esque Eli Bard came calling in X-Force Vol. 3. Bard used an alien virus to reanimate the corpse of Caliban for his master, the mutant queen Selene, in order to use Caliban's powers and build her an army of reanimated mutant zombies. Not surprisingly, the plan ended in a spectacular failure, and X-Men fans have yet to see Caliban's return in the comics.