Scoundrel Round-Up #10–Corsair (Marvel Comics)

I don't always wear spandex in outer space, but when I do, you know shit is about to go down...
I don’t always wear spandex in space, but when I do, you know shit is about to go down… (Courtesy of Marvel Comics Wiki)

Here at Sarcasti Bots, we’re committed to highlighting all sorts of facets of science fiction and pop culture, so I figured we’d try a countdown of the Top 10 Sci-Fi Scoundrels. This is by no means an all-inclusive list and relies heavily on my own personal knowledge of science fiction and comics. If there’s someone that gets left off at the end of the ten, I apologize and if there’s enough call for them, I’ll make some additions later on to reflect what you, our loyal readers, suggest. With the introduction out of the way, I suppose it’s time we introduce Sci-Fi Scoundel #10—Corsair.

Some of you may be wondering who Corsair is. I’ll admit, he’s not a big name, but he’s one I’ve enjoyed for quite some time. Coming out of the Marvel Comics Universe, Corsair first appeared in X-Men #104…the more comics literate out there will realize that’s right in the thick of the classic “Phoenix Saga.” The X-Men met up with him while he and his crew were raiding Shi’ar targets. Corsair and the Starjammers would later aid the X-Men on multiple occasions and played a very big role in the original Phoenix Saga due to Corsair’s vendetta against the Shi’ar, especially Emperor D’Ken. Corsair definitely looks like a scoundrel. His overall character design just screams “space pirate.” He’s got the earring, the headband and even the flared pirate gloves. Even his weapons scream pirate, as he carries a saber and a pistol. Yes, his saber is made by the Shi’ar and his pistol is a laser weapon, but it’s still all very pirate-y. His original design is a bit dated, but he’s gotten a few redesigns over the years that have downplayed the stereotypical pirate look. Corsair leads a group of intergalactic pirates called the Starjammers. You’ve got to admit, Corsair must have been quite the leader since he’s just an average human leading a group of alien scoundrels who all, objectively, bring more to the table that he does. You’d think with all the stereotypical pirate tropes here, Corsair wouldn’t be that interesting of a character and not worthy of inclusion here. However, creators Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum gave him a great backstory that ties him deeply into the X-Men and make him an incredibly sympathetic character.

From issue one, it was know that Cyclops was an orphan. However, what no one knew, until Jean Grey sussed it out after spending time with Corsair in Uncanny X-Men #154, was that Scott Summers’ father, Christopher was still alive and wandering around the galaxy under the name Corsair. The plane crash that young Scott Summers remembered from his early life wasn’t a plane crash at all. The Summers’ family plane was attacked by a Shi’ar scout ship. Christopher Summers pushed his sons, Scott and Alex, to safety while he and his wife, Katherine, were captured by the Shi’ar. Emperor D’Ken killed Katherine in front of him aboard the scout ship and he was thrown into prison. However, like any charismatic scoundrel, prison was no match for Christopher Summers. There, he assembled his crew of criminals and they stole the starship Starjammer and escaped from the Shi’ar prison planet. Christopher Summers was unaware his sons survived the Shi’ar attack and felt that returning to Earth would be too much to bear and remained with the Starjammers and decided to get his revenge on the Shi’ar by stealing from them at any chance he got and started calling himself Corsair. As I mentioned at the top of the paragraph, Jean Grey realized there was some connection between the mysterious Corsair and Scott Summers but when she found out that Corsair was Scott’s father, he swore her to secrecy because he didn’t want his son to ever know that he was a space pirate. Scott, being the huge stick in the mud that he was, didn’t initially react well to learning that his father had been alive all these years and never returned to Earth, though he eventually accepted Corsair as his father and the two have had quite a few adventures over the years.

Of course, no Marvel character is complete without a death and random return from the grave and Corsair was no different. In a bizarre retcon, it was revealed that Katherine Summers was pregnant with a third child, Gabriel, when she and Christopher were abducted by the Shi’ar. D’Ken stole the baby before killing Katherine and sold him into slavery. Understandably, this Summers son (born Gabriel but now going by the villainy name “Vulcan”) had a pretty big mad on for revenge on the Shi’ar and cut a swath of devastation through the Shi’ar empire. Because succession in space empires makes no sense, Vulcan was crowned as the new emperor after killing D’Ken. Corsair, along with the Starjammers and Alex Summers (aka Havok), confronted his son and tried to convince him to stop killing the Shi’ar. Of course, all Corsair got for his trouble was being murdered by his youngest son. However, in either a massive fake out or massive continuity screw up, Corsair was revealed to be alive and leading the Starjammers in 2014 when they assisted the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy in saving Jean Grey, who had been abducted by the Shi’ar to stand trial for her crimes as Phoenix (again…seriously, that’s at least the third time I think the Shi’ar have put her on trial and it’s never really worked out all that well for them). I’ll admit, I’m not familiar with “The Trial of Jean Grey” arc from 2014, so I’m not sure if they actually explained why Corsair was alive and well, but I definitely remember his death scene at the hands of Vulcan during The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire event when he took a blast of Vulcan’s powers to the face. To me, that’s something a normal person doesn’t really come back from. Regardless of whether his resurrection was accidental or not (which sometimes happens in comics), Corsair is back and leading the Starjammers with a teenage version of Cyclops by his side. That’s a super long story that I don’t want to get into because it would really lose the plot, but yeah, there are now two versions of Scott Summers running around the Marvel Universe and one is hanging out with his dad in outer space.

Corsair fits the scoundrel archetype for three reasons. First of all, you have to admit that Corsair looks like a pirate. That’s a pretty eye-catching design and while he’s a space pirate, his creators made the wise choice to make him pretty stereotypically pirate-y at the beginning so you knew exactly who he was just by looking at him. Secondly, Corsair’s motivation fits with the idea of a scoundrel perfectly. He was clearly wronged by the Shi’ar and decided to take matters into his own hands to seek justice. He definitely has a code of ethics, but following it puts him on the wrong side of the law. Finally, there’s his relationship with his sons. While Christopher and Alex Summers have always gotten along, there was some initial friction between Scott and his father. They didn’t get along when he only knew him as Corsair because Scott always follows the rules and Corsair didn’t and then when he learned who Corsair really was, there was a lot of resentment about his father’s choice not to return to Earth. Personally, I found Christopher Summers’ reasons quite compelling, but again, as befitting the scoundrel, not everyone could initially accept why he remained in space. However, even in the end, he tried to be a good father to Scott and Alex and died trying to save his third son even though Gabriel was clearly beyond saving at that point. Christopher Summers wasn’t willing to give up on his son and paid what seemed like the ultimate price to keep his son from being killed.

Corsair’s story has been collected multiple times. The original Phoenix Saga seems to get reprinted fairly often (such as in the Marvel Masterworks Series Uncanny X-Men Volume 2) and Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire is a relatively recent story that should be collectable either by digging through the back issues online or in the collected version. However, for my money, I still like going back to the 1992 X-Men cartoon. The second season (third season if you’re buying the content digitally) very faithfully adapted the original Phoenix Saga which means it’s a well-done story and it was my first exposure to the X-Men and Corsair. The cartoon adaptation was so good that it motivated me to track down the Phoenix Saga in collected form before and I try to read it at least once every couple of years because it’s nice to go back to an old friend like that. A later episode of the X-Men cartoon (Season 3‘s “Orphan’s End”) also adapted the story where Cyclops learned the truth about Corsair. For such a minor player in the X-Men universe (and I don’t mean that as a slight), Corsair has gotten a lot of attention from the Marvel media and I really wish that Marvel Studios had the rights to the X-Men. I think it would be pretty amazing, considering how popular Guardians of the Galaxy was, to see Corsair in a Guardians sequel. Considering the comics have paired up the Guardians and the Starjammers before, I think it’d be pretty awesome to see two space scoundrels working together on screen as well.

Courtesy of the Marvel Comics Wiki