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Abandoned Love: What Do You Do When a Team Member Is Suddenly Not Available?


Every week, we will be examining comic book stories, plots and ideas that were abandoned by a later writer while still acknowledging that the abandoned story DID still happen. Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of Abandoned Love. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

This time around, we look at the sad fate of the Justice League Task Force member Mystek…

I dealt with this one in VERY basic terms in one of my very first Comic Book Legends Revealed, but now we’ll look at it in greater depth.

Mystek appeared in an issue of The Ray (which was written by Christopher Priest, who also wrote Justice League Task Force and who would keep VERY tight continuity between the two titles, with the books practically being completely interconnected) and then appeared in Justice League Task Force #25…



We then see the “twist” for Mystek, it is a woman dressed as a man…


She soon discovers Ray’s teleportation mat (that allows him access to Justice League Task Force headquarters)…


She fights the JLTF and escapes. The next issue, though, the Martian Manhunter tracks her down…






And later in the issue, she officially joins the team…


A few issues later, in Justice League Task Force #31, she is traveling with her teammates in a space ship on the way to rescue one of their teammates (L-Ron, who was at the time residing in Despero’s body. Despero was wanted for being a downright nasty fellow and despite L-Ron controlling the body, a bunch of aliens hired a bounty hunter to capture Despero). She was dealing with some major claustrophobia issues…



Here’s the problem, though. You see, Mystek was an original creation of Priest’s and he was in the midst of trying to work out a profit sharing deal with DC for the character. Everything seemed to be going to plan. So much so that he added her to the books before the deal was done. Then, well, DC decided NOT to complete the deal. So Priest certainly didn’t want to keep using a character that he was not going to own, so the next issue, her claustrophobia issues went to a new level…





Eventually, Gyspy was saved…


but what about Mystek?



And then Mystek was never mentioned again. Talk about abandonment! This is a bit of a twist since it was her own writer doing the abandoning, but I think it counts because it was not his idea. It is still a case of an outside force causing an abrupt change in a character’s story, which is really what Abandoned Love is all about.

If YOU have a suggestion for a future installment of Abandoned Love, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!


(puts head into hands & shakes head)

I’ve never read these comics before, but was there some particular reason Mystek wanted to use a “male” bodysuit to disguise her gender?

Simple. Penis envy. And bad writing.

On a more technical note….is the option to be notified of new comments coming back? Because I don’t know that I have time to go back and check all these over again and again to see if there are responses. (Though I wish I could).

Mystek’s thong in the first panel of that second page should have been a dead giveaway.

Now I’m mildly curious if anyone’s developed a thorough list of “female heroes who disguised themselves as male heroes.” (I’m sure the reverse list is a lot shorter.) Coming to mind: Mattie Franklin (as Spider-Man) and Dallas Riordian (as Citizen V). Gotta be more than that.

Add Echo as Ronin in New Avengers.

@Adam, the classic example is Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Tornado_%28Ma_Hunkel%29

mystek seemed pretty generic. maybe someone at DC can eventually dust her off and do something interesting.

@sly, as long as Christopher Preist is still the owner of Mystek, no one at DC will be doing with her/him.

Dammit, I misspelled, “Priest”. :(


Was Ma Hunkel trying to hide her sex? My recollection from her appearance in the early All-Star Comics is that everyone knew who she was.


Ah–kicking myself for not remembering that one. And I guess we have that supermodel in the FF comic who’s wearing Ben Grimm’s old Thing-armor, but I don’t think she’s hiding her sex either.

I agree with Adam – the thong is a dead giveaway, and has a certain ridiculousness as outerwear.

Ah, but Mystek did show up once more, if very briefly, in Avengers/JLA #4.

Actually, the first gender swapping hero was Madame Fatal, who was a guy who disguised himself as an old lady. He appeared recently in the Shade maxi-series.
Although the original Red Tornado was not trying to change genders, there were stories where people assumed she was a guy, just because she was not the typical scantily clad supermodel looking super-heroine.
Also, they never explained why Mystek dressed to look like a man. Priest promised to explain that when she got her own comic and left a lot of stuff about her unknown. You got to figure, though, that a woman disguised as a man is a pretty perfect secret identity.

Are there any characters that went the opposite direction? A man trying to impersonate a woman hero?

If I’m not mistaken, Priest also wrote some of The Flash during his Task Force / Ray run, as there was a crossover between the three and The Ray, Flash and I believe Triumph (or someone else? Am I mis-remembering?) were the best of pals for a while.

I don’t think that’s happened too often (though the internet may surprise us). I know that the pre-Zero Hour Erin Shvaughn in the Legion was a man who took 31st-century hormones to become a woman, and there was that time the Martian Manhunter became a woman for a few issues. (http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Justice_League_Task_Force_Vol_1_8) I don’t think either case is quite what we’re going for here, though: female super hero whose secret is that she’s a man.

Also, apparently Priest made a huge Mystek.

(Arrested Development nod)

Oh, remembered another one: Mighty Man in the Savage Dragon comics. My vague understanding is that she was a Shazam pastiche gone wrong: an aged Billy Batson analogue meant to pass his powers onto his grandson, but mistakenly gave them to his female nurse instead. So she basically became Captain Marvel when she activated her powers.

And a couple of years ago, said nurse gave birth to a baby daughter and accidentally transferred the Mighty Man powers to her baby. So now when the baby clicks her wrists together, she turns into Mighty Man (but with the mind of an infant, you can imagine how violent and destructive she can be). So the mother had to devise a system to prevent her daughter from clicking her wrists together until she’s old enough to understand what she’s doing (although recently, desperate times called for desperate measures and she was forced to coach her now-toddler daughter to help during an alien invasion).

interesting did not know till that dc did not own mystek when she showed up in the jl books. that her creator owned her and was trying to give her to dc only to wind up when dc passed send her off to an early grave in the dcu in the most brutal way ever. which means mystek will be in comic limbo till priest ever decides to use her in some book he may be working on.

Malibu Comics’ Mantra was a man in a woman’s body, but not as a result of wearing a ‘woman costume’.


Yeah, we could probably work up a whole separate list of “women/men who were accidentally turned into men/women.” Sasquatch is probably the best example. I’m more interested in the “costume” category!

There’s a male superhero in Adam Warren’s Empowered who’s superhero costume is that of a French maid. Sounds like a gag, but s/he’s actually depicted as a cool, sympathetic character… Though Empowered obviously is a humourous comic to begin with.

For a little while, Priest had a whole thing about characters crossing gender or ethnic lines between identities — his short-lived Xero series at DC in the 1990s revolved around an African-American master assassin who used a Caucasian identity in his profession.

There’s also Promethea, one of the historical Promethea’s was a gay man who changed into the titular character, he even had a relationship with another man in the female form with sadness when it was revealed.

You know, I could see Priest revitalizing the character and doing something new–independently, of course.

Just so it’s clear, though, Priest has noted that Mystek was owned by DC Comics, by dint of appearing there before negotiations had concluded.

In his post on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe explaining the situation, Priest ended the post with, “Mystek is ™ and Copyright DC Comics, from the moment of his appearance in The Ray #12.”

One cool gender-bending character was Masquerade in the Blood Syndicate from Mikestone. He was a Walkman who used shape shifting powers not just to become various animals but also a man… Which was his preferred identity. He flipped out when his secret was revealed.

The anime “Moldiver” was one of the early commercial imports to the US, and the main character is a girl that ends up in possession of the (very male looking) energy exoskeleton that was meant for another cast member. Eventually she gets it reconfigured into something that looks more like her, but not until past the half-way point of the series, IIRC. As the episodes each began with a letter of the series name, and it ended with “Verity”, it makes me wonder if the OAV series got cut short at 6 out of an intended 8 episodes.

Actually an earlier character who disguised himself as a woman (about 8 months prior to Madame Fatal) was Centaur Comics The Catman whose first appearance was in Amazing Man Comics #5 (September 1939) and his second and final appearance was in Amazing Man Comics #8 (December 1939).

He dressed up as an old woman and carried a cat who’s claws he had put poison on.

His two adventures were drawn by Tarpe Mills.

Not exactly the same but, man, the Golden Age Captain America couldn’t go three panels without cross-dressing. Good times!

On female characters hidden in “masculine armors”, there’s another case: Stellaris, the Celestial Hunter, who appeared in Thor (Eric Masterson’s era) and then in Thunderstrike series… Seen for the last time in Annihilation: Ronan limited series, she was created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz.

DeFalco pulled that a couple times, with Bloodaxe in Thor and Thunderstrike, and Mad Jack in Spider-Man: The Mysterio Manifesto.

Wonder Woman had a couple of cross-dressers in her Rogue’s Gallery–the Blue Snowman, Hypnota and Dr. Poison were all cross-dressing women IIRC.

I was always a big fan of Priest’s Task Force run. He really made you feel for this motley crew. His run mostly consisted of how the team interacted as opposed to the monthly threat. :-)

“And I just him walk!”

I’m sorry, but what?

Robbie, I believe they just swallowed the “let” while typing the text in the balloon (I believe digital lettering was already available, so mistakes like that became more and more common.

And,for the list of cross-dressing characters, there was Dumas, a male villain posing as the millionaire Olivia Vancroft at the ’80s “Manhunter” series.

Also, there is a character in “Bone” who everybody thinks is a man, but is actually a woman. However, saying anything else would be a spoiler for the ones who didn’t read it.

In the video-game realm, there’s Samus Aran and her bulky suit in the “Metroid” franchise.

In Brazil, we had the “Supernêga” (“Superblack Woman”) at the humor title “Os Trapalhões” (“The Clumsy Ones”), where male cast member Mussum could transform into a super-heroine dressed in Wonder Woman attire. No, no explanation was given to that. –However, (s)he falls out of the list, since it’s a full-body change.

In X-Force volume 2 (or is it three?) Stryfe reappears only to be later revealed to be Domino wearing his armor. Vamp, and old enemy of Captain America, was able to transform into some sort of male psychic caveman (that granted her showing up in a later issue of Deadpool).

Also the Spitfire armor from the New Universe might fall into the same “bulky but not exatcly male” cathergory as Metroid’s Samus.

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