The Comic Book History of the Mutant-Hating Purifiers
Reverend William Stryker and his followers have made hunting down mutants their mission.
The X-Men always go by a simple motto: protect a world that hates and fears us. Few hate and fear mutants more than Purifiers, a fanatic religious fundamentalist group that considers it their mission from God to wipe the genetically-different from the face of the planet.
Started and often run by Reverend William Stryker – a soldier-turned-evangelist who apparently killed his own son because he was born a mutant, and then killed his wife – this group started making trouble for the X-Men in the 1982 Marvel Graphic Novel X-MEN: GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS by Chris Claremont and Brent Eric Anderson. Since then, the Purifiers seem to pop up at the worst time with attacks that have taken more than a few X-Men lives – and these days, you can see a live-action version of the hate group in the TV series “The Gifted” on FOX.
Let’s look back at the comic book history of the Purifiers…
GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS
In their very first appearance, Purifiers shot two African-American mutant children to death and hung them from a swing set with the word "Mutie" plastered across their chests. Their leader Reverend Stryker later appeared on TV with Charles Xavier to debate mutant rights after which Purifiers attacked Professor X, Storm and Cyclops. Thinking their friends dead, the other X-Men teamed with Magneto to take Stryker and company down. Stryker then used Professor X to mentally attack mutants but our heroes stopped him. When the Rev pulled a gun on Kitty Pryde, one of his own guards shot him, which led to the hatemonger's imprisonment.
Stryker remained justly imprisoned for roughly two decades in real time. Claremont brought him and the Purifiers back in X-TREME X-MEN #25-30 as Lady Deathstrike broke him out, faked his death and managed to blame it all on the X-Men. A team consisting of Storm, Cannonball, Bishop, Wolverine and Sage investigated when the Reverend kidnapped Kitty Pryde and tried using her powers to attack the mutant city of Mt. Haven, where he ultimately allowed a powerful AI to inhabit his body and then went into suspended animation to protect the Earth from its incredible destructive power.
HELL IS FOR CHILDREN
In Craig Kyle and Chris Yost's run on NEW X-MEN (#20-46), they revealed that Stryker left Mt. Haven after an earthquake opened his containment unit allowing him to wander the country feeling aimless. He nearly shot himself in the head before realizing he shared a church with a damaged future Sentinel called Nimrod. When Scarlet Witch decimated the mutant population, Stryker and his Purifiers saw it as a sign from God that they were in the right. Using Nimrod's knowledge of the future, Stryker manipulated his followers and performed several attacks on the Xavier Institute including blowing up a bus full of young mutants-turned-humans and even a full-scale attack on the school itself. Stryker fell when Elixir expanded a tumor inside of him, apparently killing him.
Even with their founder and leader seemingly dead, the Purifiers didn't stand down. Instead, they continued Stryker's mission thanks to professional assassin-turned-fanatic Matthew Risman. They even attempted to claim the mutant-hunting weapon they had genetically engineered and dubbed Predator X but it escaped. Both the beast and the hate group played important parts in the Messiah Complex crossover which saw different groups all trying to get their hands on Hope, the first new mutant birth since M Day. The Purifiers killed an entire Alaskan village in an attempt to dispatch the baby and also upped their own power levels with a group of enhanced individuals dubbed the new Reavers, which were led by Lady Deathstrike. Cable managed to save Hope and take her to the future to raise her.
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
A new volume of X-FORCE spun out of Messiah Complex – also from Kyle and Yost – with Wolverine and company handling some of the dirtier missions. The first arc involved taking out the Purifiers. In attempt to get Nimrod back, the fanatics resurrected Bastion, who took control and focused even harder on killing all the mutants. He used a techno-organic alien to resurrect and/or take control of some of the worst mutant-killers: Graydon Creed, Donald Pierce, Stephen Lang, the Leper Queen, Bolivar Trask, Cameron Hodge and, of course, William Stryker. Though Risman died in the ensuing battle, Bastion-controlled Purifiers weaponized the Legacy virus and carried on their mission.
Cable eventually returned from the future to the present with Hope, now a young woman. Her presence restarted the Messiah Complex conflict, including the Purifiers' desire to murder her, which they attempted while the duo holed up in a motel. The X-Men arrived to help their friends, but the Purifiers easily took out Magik and Nightcrawler before Angel sliced Stryker in half. Folded in with the rest of Bastion's minions, the Purifiers helped set up a dome around our heroes as well as a portal to the future that unleashed thousands of Nimrods on mutantkind. Cable once again sacrificed himself to save the others, which lead to Bastion's downfall.
The Purifiers took a break for a while but reappeared to chase down a young mutant who turned out to be an amnesiac X-23. Luckily for her – or maybe the zealots – the interdimensional X-kids showed up to stop them in ALL-NEW X-MEN #19-21. After the future Wolverine calmed down, the X-Men backed her play against the Purifiers. This time William Stryker's son, Jason – who hadn't actually perished when his father tried killing him as a baby, but was instead helped by A.I.M. – led the group, spouting that the time travelers' appearance in the present endangered all of reality. Considering he's a mutant himself, it's fair to say Jason has a fairly complex identity crisis to deal with.
In the first 11 issues of WEAPON X – as well as the crossover with THE TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #20-22 – Stryker revealed himself as head of Weapon X. He spearheaded a campaign to create a variety of mutant-killing cyborgs using mutant DNA. One such creation, Weapon H, used not only a human as a starter and lots of adamantium, but pieces of Wolverine, Sabretooth, Warpath, Sabretooth, Old Man Logan and Totally Awesome Hulk. However, lead scientist Dr. Alba didn't share Stryker's beliefs and created her own version, less concerned with mutants and more focused on destruction. Weapon H eventually escaped and smashed Stryker revealing him as one of the cyborgs as well! Creed attached Stryker's remains to a nuclear reactor core to blow up Weapon H, but he escaped to carry on his anti-mutant ministries.
FURTHER ACTS OF AGGRESSION
While Stryker's Weapon X machinations didn't actually involve Purifiers by name, the main group has continued to terrorize the mutant population. In the first arc of the 2017 ICEMAN series, the group first attacked the hospital Bobby Drake's dad was in and then their new family home, but the founding X-Man put them on ice without hurting them too bad. Meanwhile, in GENERATION X #1-2, another batch of Purifiers posed as a tour group to get inside the Central Park location of the Xavier School and started shooting the place up, but Jubilee and her students took them out.
The season finale of “The Gifted” airs Tuesday, February 26 at 9:00pm ET/PT on FOX.
Make sure to follow @TheGiftedonFOX on Twitter and like "The Gifted" on Facebook. You can also see more about the show at Marvel.com's section for "The Gifted" Season 2.
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