Published May 10, 2022

Madelyne Pryor, the Goblin Queen: Meet the X-Men’s Most Dangerous Clone

Following her appearance in FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1, take a look back at Madelyne Pryor's tragic and villainous history.

In the ’80s, the X-Men found themselves without original member Jean Grey following her death in the “Dark Phoenix Saga.” Taking advantage of the situation, Nathaniel Essex, AKA Mr. Sinister, introduced Scott “Cyclops” Summers to Madelyne Pryor, a clone of Jean, in hopes of creating the ultimate mutant. However, the resultant suffering twisted Madelyne into the deadly Goblin Queen. With Madelyne partnering up with Ben Reilly’s Chasm in the pages of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1, let’s look at the character’s tragic and villainous history.

Created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, Madelyne debuted in 1983’s UNCANNY X-MEN #168 as a pilot working for North Star Airways, a company owned by Scott’s grandparents. Scott encountered Madelyne for the first time while going to visit his grandparents in Alaska, and her uncanny resemblance to the late Jean immediately struck him.

Shortly after, Scott and Madelyne began a romantic relationship. Despite having strong feelings for Madelyne, Scott continued to doubt just who she was, thinking she may be a resurrected Jean or Phoenix. There was plenty to be suspicious about, too. Madelyne revealed to Scott she was the sole survivor of a plane crash that happened the same day Jean died, and she didn’t seem to have any memories from before the event. The villainous Mastermind later exploited Scott’s fears to make it seem as if Madelyne was the Phoenix resurrected. However, after the X-Men successfully bested Mastermind and cut through his illusions, Scott accepted his suspicions about Madelyne were unfounded and that she was just a normal, non-mutant woman. 

Eventually, Scott and Madelyne married, and he retired from the X-Men to live with her in Alaska. Adventure ended up finding the two, and Madelyne briefly took on the Super Hero name Anodyne after Loki gave her the ability to heal others. After getting her powers, Madelyne revealed she was pregnant. 

Retirement didn’t sit well with Scott, and the hero continued to go on missions with the X-Men. This caused a lot of conflict between him and Madelyne, which came to a head when Madelyne gave birth to her son – Nathan Summers, AKA Cable – alone while Scott was on a mission. Madelyne, upset by her husband’s absences, demanded Scott retire. Instead, he fought Ororo Munroe, AKA Storm to determine who would lead the X-Men after the disappearance of Professor Charlies Xavier. Madelyne unconsciously influenced the outcome of the fight with her latent powers and Scott lost. They then returned to Alaska.

Once again, Scott’s retirement was short-lived. After Jean returned to life, Scott abandoned Madelyne and Nathan to form X-Factor. Madelyne later took a job flying to San Francisco, bringing Nathan with her. However, once she arrived, the Marauders – a group of mutants working for Mr. Sinister – abducted Nathan and nearly killed her. For a period following that attack, Madelyne worked with the X-Men and developed a close relationship with Alex Summers, Scott’s brother. 

While at the X-Men’s new base in Australia, Madelyne saw Scott and Jean together. This caused her to fly into a rage, which ended with her getting knocked unconscious. S’ym, a demon from Limbo, took advantage and began torturing Madelyne with visions of Scott’s neglect for her and his love for Jean. The pain of what she’d experienced finally turned Madelyne to the dark side, and she struck a deal with the demon N’astirh to find and rescue her son, who was still in the possession of Mr. Sinister. Afterwards, Madelyne unlocked her latent psychic powers. In addition to those psychic powers, Madelyne also had the ability to perform sorcery, which she used to summon goblins and demons. Thus, the Goblin Queen was born. 

Soon after getting her powers, Madelyne confronted Mr. Sinister at his lab. There, Mr. Sinister revealed Madelyne was a clone of Jean. Following Jean’s death, the Phoenix Force entered Madelyne, bringing her to life. Mr. Sinister then orchestrated Madelyne’s first meeting with Scott so that they could have a child for him to abduct. Following Jean’s resurrection, Sinister attempted to kill Madelyne so his plan wouldn’t be discovered. 

This revelation broke Madelyne, who had always been frustrated by Scott comparing her to Jean, and sparked the “Inferno” storyline. In that arc, Madelyne agreed to work with the demons of Limbo and help them invade Earth, which required sacrificing Nathan. She also began an affair with Alex, who became the Goblin Prince. In the end, Jean successfully bested Madelyne, and the Goblin Queen died from self-inflicted wounds after the Phoenix Force left her.

Madelyne appeared sporadically in the decade after her death, with psionic forms manifesting for both Nate Grey, AKA X-Man, and Cable. The first notable attempt to bring Madelyne back to life came in the 2000s. The character initially served as the Red Queen of the Hellfire Cult, but later formed a new Sisterhood of Mutants. Together with the Sisterhood, Madelyne tried to transfer her consciousness into Jean’s deceased body, the only suitable vessel for her powers. However, the X-Men moved Jean’s real body, and Madelyne destroyed herself trying to enter her new vessel. In the 2010s, though, Lady Deathstrike reformed the Sisterhood of Mutants and successfully brought Madelyne back to life by creating a new vessel for her. 

In the Dawn of X era, the Hellions found Madelyne torturing zombified versions of the Marauders in one of Mr. Sinister’s labs. Madelyne was bitter the mutants of Krakoa did not invite her to join the island nation and planned on attacking it with an army of cloned Marauders. This story also reunited Madelyne with Alex, who agreed to help her with her plans. However, the Hellions defeated Madelyne, killing her in the process. Madelyne’s death sparked debate about whether she should be revived, as she’s technically a clone of Jean. This angered Alex, and on his behalf, Emma Frost later convinced the Quiet Council to bring Madelyne back to life. 

Since then, Madelyne has been puttering around Krakoa, but she’s slated to play a big role in the upcoming “The Labors of Magik” arc in the pages of NEW MUTANTS. The story will see Madelyne duking it out with Magik for control of Limbo. Additionally, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 reveals she’s also working with Chasm, an evil version of Peter Parker clone Ben Reilly. Their partnership will tie into the upcoming “Dark Web” event. Together, the two clones may just be able to wreak a lot of havoc on the Marvel Universe and prove that, with great resentment, comes a great capacity for evil.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 panel by Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 panel by Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 is now available for free at your local comic shop.

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