Published August 11, 2022

Meet the High Evolutionary, Marvel’s Gene-Altering Super Villain

Who is the High Evolutionary? Read on to learn more about this arrogant, yet deeply intelligent super villain and his plan for humanity.

Arrogant, unethical, and deeply intelligent, Herbert Edgar Wyndham, AKA the High Evolutionary, is one of the Marvel Universe’s most important villains. While he doesn’t have the same long history of fighting heroes like some others, Wyndham nonetheless exerts an influence that has, on numerous occasions, changed his world in profound ways. In light of the character’s recent abduction of Devil Dinosaur in MOON GIRL & AVENGERS (2022) #1, here’s a history of the High Evolutionary in the Marvel Universe.

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the High Evolutionary debuted in THOR (1966) #134. However, chronologically, his story began long before that issue. Wyndham was a geneticist in the early 20th century. While at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, he met the Inhuman Phaeder, who gave him information that helped him make major leaps forward in his research. 

Wyndham’s work on speeding up evolution, which proved controversial, eventually got him expelled from university, but he persisted. Soon, he recruited Jonathan Drew, who was an old friend of his and a fellow scientist. Using Drew’s fortune, they built a laboratory at Wundagore Mountain with the goal of continuing his studies.

During this early period, the High Evolutionary created a special suit to protect himself against physical attacks. He also began evolving animals to the point of sentience, resulting in the New Men. Some of his creations were decidedly more combat-oriented, and they became known as the Knights of Wundagore, with the High Evolutionary instilling in them a chivalric code. One of those evolved creatures, though, proved to have a penchant for evil. Wyndham enlisted the help of Thor to defeat this creation, dubbed Man-Beast.

Additionally, Wyndham made several important contributions to the wider Marvel Universe, some of which took decades to come to fruition. Jonathan Drew was the father of Jessica Drew, AKA Spider-Woman. During her time at Wundagore Mountain, the future hero became sick with radiation poisoning due to uranium at the location. Wyndham played a key role in her recovery and the superpowers that resulted from it. He also experimented on Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) and Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) as babies, giving them their powers as part of his research. 

Wyndham eventually moved his research to space, where he faced a revolution from the New Men. That story ended with Wyndham using his own evolving technology on himself, which transformed him into a non-corporeal being closer to a god than a man. After lamenting his work and the folly of trying to alter nature, Wyndham devolved his New Men back into their original forms and disappeared. 

The High Evolutionary didn’t stay gone forever, though. Wyndham returned, still boasting some of the powers from his evolutionary upgrade, saying his time as a non-corporeal being proved too lonely for the human part of him. He soon began his new project: Counter-Earth. This time around, Wyndham wanted to create a version of his home planet without such problems as evil.

When the High Evolutionary fell asleep during the experiment, Man-Beast returned and boarded his creator’s ship to corrupt Counter-Earth. In response, Adam Warlock – whose cocoon the High Evolutionary had found in space – emerged and took on the corrupted New Man. The High Evolutionary wanted to purge Counter-Earth, but Warlock advocated on the world’s behalf and became its protector in the process. It is Wyndham who gave Warlock, who had previously only been known as “Him,” the name Warlock and his iconic Soul Gem. They ended up having something of a father-son relationship.

The Counter-Earth experiment ended when the Beyonders stole the planet to put in a museum. While Wyndham attempted to get his creation back, he was driven to despair upon seeing the Beyonders and their incredible power, and he de-evolved himself with help from Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk.

Prior to what happened with Counter-Earth, Wyndham wasn’t clearly good or evil. Although his actions and generally arrogant demeanor were questionable, he was often on the side of heroes and genuinely attempted to do what he thought best for humanity. However, that all changed with the “Evolutionary War” storyline in the ’80s.

After de-evolving himself, Wyndham returned with the goal of helping humanity surpass, or at least rival, the Beyonders. However, to accomplish this, he believed he needed to destroy any potential threats to humanity’s evolution. As a result, he attempted to genocide anyone he deemed detrimental to the human race’s future, which brought him into conflict with Marvel’s heroes. The Avengers eventually stopped him, but the more neutral High Evolutionary was now more decidedly a villain, often being called a fascist by the Marvel Universe’s heroes.

Subsequent stories saw Wyndham come into conflict with many Marvel heroes, including the Silver Surfer and Ka-Zar. He also went up against the Champions and Avengers again when he tried to merge Counter-Earth and Earth. On several occasions, other villains also tricked or manipulated the High Evolutionary into helping them. Those included Mister Sinister, who pit him against the X-Men to remove their powers, and Zuras of the Eternals, who made him fear a coming judgment from the Celestials

Still, Wyndham hasn’t always strictly fought against heroes. Notably, he once again encountered Warlock during ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST (2007). During that event, Warlock expressed disdain for his father. However, circumstances forced the two to work together against Ultron and the Phalanx, who were attempting to conquer the universe. Wyndham eventually betrayed Warlock and helped to transfer the malevolent AI’s consciousness into his body. The story’s end heavily implied the High Evolutionary knew Warlock’s consciousness had survived the transfer, which proved integral to defeating Ultron. 

Most recently, the High Evolutionary has been reappearing in one-shots centered on Moon Girl, AKA Lunella Lafayette, as she attempts to track down her missing partner, Devil Dinosaur. In AVENGERS & MOON GIRL (2022) #1, Lunella and Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, traveled to the moon, where they fought the New Men and found the High Evolutionary experimenting on Devil Dinosaur and Wolverine to create an army of clone dinosaurs. At the end of the issue, Lunella decided to team up with Wolverine to get her friend back and foil Wyndham’s plans.

To find out what’s going on with the High Evolutionary, pick up MILES MORALES & MOON GIRL (2022) #1 and AVENGERS & MOON GIRL (2022) #1, on sale now! The story continues in X-MEN & MOON GIRL (2022) #1, on sale September 7.

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UNCANNY AVENGERS (2015) #2 artwork by Daniel Acuña


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