Is Marvel's Goblin Queen really a villain, or just rightfully pissed off at Cyclops?

Madelyne Pryor the Goblin Queen
Madelyne Pryor the Goblin Queen (Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Madelyne Pryor will return to her hellish Goblin Queen persona as one of the villains of the upcoming Spider-Man/X-Men: Dark Web crossover, alongside fellow clone villain Ben Reilly/Chasm. But even though she's going to be menacing Spider-Man and the X-Men (and has definitely done her share of misdeeds before), is characterizing Madelyne Pryor as a villain in the first place truly fair?

Yeah, so she kinda sold her soul to a demon and turned New York into an infernal hell pit. But can you blame her? Her supposed superhero husband Cyclops had just abandoned Madelyne and their infant son Christopher out of the blue to reunite with his ex, Jean Grey. And what's more, she learned she was just a clone of Jean in the first place, created by Cyclops' enemy Mister Sinister to mess with him.

Oh, what's that? You thought Cyclops was a straight arrow, moral compass, boy scout type? Well, think again - cause the sordid history of Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor will absolutely have you reconsidering who is the villain and who is the hero when it's all said and done.

Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

To understand the complex dynamic at hand between Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor, we've got to go all the way back to the start of their relationship. 

Any dive into the X-Men lore is a potential minefield for tangents, side stories, and interwoven soap opera relationships - especially in the mid to late '80s when this story was told. So we'll do our best to give you the TL:DR without sparing any of the gory details of what went on between Cyclops and Madelyne Pryor.

At the time Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor met, the X-Men were fresh off the 'Dark Phoenix Saga,' in which Jean Grey had become possessed by the cosmic Phoenix Force and eventually seemingly sacrificed her life to end the trail of destruction it left in its wake. 

As the Phoenix Force departed Jean's dying body, a spark of its power managed to connect with a then lifeless clone of Jean Grey who was created by the mutant geneticist Mister Sinister, with the small spark of the Phoenix breathing life into the clone - who walked, talked, and looked almost exactly like Jean Grey.

Scott was introduced to Madelyne while visiting his home state of Alaska, and the pair quickly bonded (the fact that Madelyne looked a lot like Scott's dead ex Jean Grey helped a lot ... we'll let you decide if it's creepy), and eventually married - even having a son named Christopher.

And that's where things start to get really bad for Madelyne Pryor and her infant son.

Jean Grey Returns

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

See, shortly thereafter, Jean was resurrected thanks to the Phoenix Force's power of life, death, and rebirth (we're definitely simplifying the whole story here). And just about as soon as he learned Jean was alive again, Scott straight up ditched his wife and son to reunite with her.

To try to give Scott somewhat the benefit of the doubt, Jean's resurrection was one of the first times a major comic character died and came back to life, so he really had no context in which to emotionally process someone coming back from the dead.

That said, he definitely didn't try to work things out with Madelyne or figure out how to navigate the situation in a less harmful way than plain old running the heck away back to Jean.

Not long after Scott’s abandonment, Mister Sinister engineers a plane crash in which his Marauders kidnap Madelyne and Christopher, with the baby going missing. 

In her resulting desperation, Madelyne makes a deal with two demons to find the baby and help her take revenge on Sinister and his Marauders. And though she does find the baby - in the clutches of Sinister, naturally - she also learns the truth of her nature as a clone of Jean Grey and a part of Sinister's plan to manipulate Cyclops and continue experimenting on the Summers family line.

Madelyne's resulting breakdown causes her to lean into her pact with the demons, becoming the demonic Goblin Queen and turning most of New York City into a hellish reflection of the demon's home realm of Limbo, in the now classic story X-Men: Inferno (not to be confused with the 2021 event of the same name).

Madelyne Pryor as the Goblin Queen

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As we said, we're just scratching the surface of the details of everything that went down in Madelyne Pryor's time with Cyclops and her transformation into the Goblin Queen, which also involves an affair with Cyclops' brother Havok in the wake of Scott's abandonment and the revelation that she's a clone.

And we're not even getting into what eventually happened to the infant Christopher Summers, who was renamed Nathan and taken to the future - where he grew into the mutant soldier Cable.

As for Madelyne herself, Inferno resulted in her death, with the spark of the Phoenix Force that gave her life abandoning her and returning to Jean, its preferred host. 

This means that Cyclops ultimately trades his living wife for his dead flame, leading directly to the death of his wife, trading Madelyne's life for Jean's - a life that only existed to manipulate Cyclops to begin with.

In the years since, Madelyne has returned from the dead a few times (you can say "she got better" in your best John Cleese impression), as is the way of comic book villains, often as the Goblin Queen. But honestly, when you consider how she got to that point, can you really blame her?

Or should you blame Cyclops and Mister Sinister?

Keep up to date with all the new X-Men comics planned for release in 2022 and beyond.

George Marston

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)