It’s no secret that I love mutants (Magneto be with you, and also with you). Regardless of how Marvel has (mis)treated mutant-kind over the years, I believe that every lesser-known mutant deserves at least one moment in the spotlight. This month, I chose a villain that did have a brief time to shine, but unfortunately, she was only one member of a whole team that was featured.
Arclight is a mutant with heightened strength, durability, and the power to create shockwaves of energy upon physical contact with an object or person. A member of a group of ruthless killers called the Marauders, Arclight slaughtered her fellow mutants without hesitation. A shockingly murderous woman, it’s time to welcome Arclight to the D-List.
Arclight had a cameo in Uncanny X-Men #210, but her first full appearance was within the pages of Uncanny X-Men #211 in 1986. Created by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr., Arclight played a prominent role in the infamous story, “The Mutant Massacre” (gee, I wonder how it ended…). Arclight and her teammates invaded the sewers under New York City in order to find the group of mutants known as Morlocks. These sewer-dwellers hid themselves from society because of their grotesque appearances and the Marauders’ job was to kill them.
One Morlock noticed the intruders and ran for help, but Arclight shattered a wall which crumbled onto the potential snitch. The leader of the Morlocks, Callisto, arrived to aid her people, but Arclight slammed her fists into the ground, sending shockwaves that knocked all of the hapless mutants off of their feet. The Marauders then murdered many of the Morlocks.
During the mayhem, it was revealed that the Marauders, themselves, were actually mutants. No reason was initially given for killing their own kind, but it was clear that Arclight and her teammates thoroughly enjoyed the bloodshed. Of course, the X-Men arrived and rained on the bloody parade, but Arclight was excited to fight the heroes. She punched Colossus into a wall, then sent shockwaves to collapse the ceiling onto the enormous mutant.
Arclight seemed to co-lead the Marauders with her teammate, Scalphunter, and it was occasionally implied that the two had a romantic relationship, although I don’t believe that has ever been officially confirmed. Unfortunately, not much characterization was initially given to Arclight other than enjoying a fight. Also, her purple hair was pretty cool.
Shortly after trying to kill the brats of Power Pack, it was revealed that the Marauders were working for Mr. Sinister. Sinister created clones of each Marauder, so if one was killed in battle, the clone would become conscious and continue obeying the evil geneticist. However, it wasn’t Mr. Sinister who initially recruited Arclight into the Marauders, it was a pre-heroic Gambit (fucking faux-French ruin everything).
Arclight was shown as an active member of the military when Gambit approached her, and she agreed to leave the armed forces to work for Sinister. However, she noted that she would only do so for money, not sex (hooray for capitalism, but boo for boobies). Either she was given an exorbitant amount of money or she just really enjoyed killing, because Arclight had no problem slaughtering poor, nearly defenseless mutants. Perhaps she knew she was able to cheat death, so it fueled her ruthlessness. Proving the cloning process successful, Arclight was killed by Abomination, but later arrived at Xavier’s School.
Arclight sought refuge at the X-Mansion because she was one out of only 200 mutants who retained their powers after M-Day. Of course, she gravitated toward other evil mutants who were looking for safety. It was a shame, as a handful of once-villainous mutants eventually aided the X-Men in battle, and I was hoping that Arclight would be utilized in a greater capacity. Had she shown regret for her past actions, would the X-Men have allowed her to join their ranks? I suppose it doesn’t matter, because she was back to her wicked ways in a short period of time.
The Marauders defeated a team of X-Men in order to kidnap Rogue, and once outside, Arclight shattered the house in which they fought, destroying it with the X-Men still inside. During a battle against Spider-Man, the hero webbed Arclight’s hands together, but Spidey didn’t count on her ability to generate shockwaves from her feet. Recently, in another battle against the X-Men, she was shown carrying a whip (maybe she did go for the sex thing after all).
I was really upset that Arclight didn’t have a larger role in the books after M-Day occurred. Her appearances since then have been sparse, at best. Writers have clearly utilized her since the decimation, but unfortunately, she hasn’t served as much more than a punching bag for heroes (but at least she’s a pretty, purple-haired punching bag).
Recently, Magneto decided to murder the Marauders for shits and giggles. Harpoon tried leading the team into action, but Arclight pointed out that his metal harpoons probably wouldn’t be very useful against the master of magnetism (surprise – a guy who calls himself Harpoon is dumb). Arclight caused a large explosion underneath Magneto, which seemingly knocked him unconscious. Thinking they had won, Arclight stood over Magneto and began to gloat. Of course, Magneto was just fine, and impaled each of the Marauders with metal beams. As Arclight was dying, she asked why Magneto would kill his own kind, so he casually reminded Arclight about the Morlocks. The master of magnetism then found Sinister’s farm of clones, and used the Marauders to teach S.H.I.E.L.D. a lesson for stealing a Cerebro unit.
It was certainly comical to watch Arclight gloat over the thought of defeating Magneto, but that sense of arrogance was something that could have been explored. As long as clones of her exist, she cannot stay dead. While that may explain her shocking behavior, I am disappointed that Arclight has never been featured as a character independent of the Marauders. It would make sense for such a headstrong and murderous woman to strike out on her own.
I don’t believe Arclight’s real name or history were ever explicitly stated in continuity. However, Arclight was given a brief biographical entry in an issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which I, unfortunately, have not been able to locate. Arclight’s real name is Philippa Sontag and she served in Vietnam before working for Sinister. I am certain that information originated exclusively in the Handbook; I only learned those facts thanks to the wonders of the internet. It’s unfortunate that a visual account of her history has never truly been explored.
To my knowledge, Arclight has only officially appeared in one alternate universe within Marvel Comics, where she challenged, and then was swiftly killed by, the Hulk. However, Arclight has made a few appearances outside of comic books. She was included in the “Deadpool” videogame as the first boss, and had a minor role in two episodes of X-Men: The Animated Series. While Arclight did appear in one episode of the cartoon, Wolverine and the X-Men, the writers decided to make her the sole field-leader of the Marauders, and a male character. The other Marauders who appeared in the episode were the correct gender, so why did the producers change Arclight? You’re in luck, true-believer, because I’m going to offer my opinion. In the comics, both Scalphunter and Arclight seemed to share leadership duties of the Marauders, but Scalphunter was likely too terrifying of a name to use in a cartoon marketed to children, so he was not included. If Arclight, as a female, were in charge of the animated team, then young, impressionable boys who viewed the episode could have been confused into thinking that women should be allowed in positions of power. Sarcasm, everyone – I was extremely angry that the writers changed Arclight’s biology (and I still am). Pulling that kind of sexist bullshit with my mutants is not ok (it’s not ok anywhere, ever).
Arclight also had a role in the movie, X-Men: The Last Stand, where she was played by Dominican model and actress, Omahyra Mota. So many new characters were introduced in this movie that, unfortunately, the writers forgot to give Arclight any dialogue. I appreciated her physical appearance, however, because her aesthetic hinted at masculinity, which is exactly what her comic book appearances conveyed. Sadly, a young boy sitting in front of me in the theater asked his mother, “Is that a boy or a girl?” Shut the fuck up, kid, and go read a comic book.
Although the actual use of Arclight’s power was changed from the comics in The Last Stand, I think it worked well. In the books, she has to make physical contact with a surface in order to produce shockwaves. In the movie, she conjured shockwaves the same way that Guile produces a sonic boom (by having wicked-awesome hair). I actually didn’t mind that the producers of The Last Stand took this liberty, because it looked pretty darn cool (for the 5 seconds it was shown).
I should hate Philippa Sontag with a passion for murdering mutants considering the tumultuous times mutant-kind has faced recently. On the contrary, I think that such a vicious woman is extremely intriguing, and there are important questions about her that have yet to be answered. Is it the trauma of having served in Vietnam that’s made her so violent? Is it the psychological strain of repeatedly dying, then returning from the dead? Whatever the reasons, I hope that the farm full of Philippa clones guarantees that Arclight will continue to shock and awe the Marvel Universe for years to come.