Greetings from the Odinson,
The Odinson continues his countdown to Halloween 2020 with a look at the peculiar predicament of the Evil Twin.
Duality. Two sides of the same coin. Mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. The same, but different. Good. Evil. For every action there is a reaction. For every altruistic act of kindness must there be a universal law that there be an equal act of selfish cruelty?
“It wasn’t me. It was my evil twin!” How many times has that line been used in the daily soap operas of television?
What if evil wore your face?
Countdown to Halloween 2020: Part 4 of 5 – The Evil Twin
Going all the way back to the earliest mythologies of man, the concept of the evil twin is as old as storytelling itself. Legendary French writer Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers) leaned in heavily on the concept with his exciting take on the legend of the Man in the Iron Mask. In the story, the legendary heroes – Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan – discover that the cruel king of France has a previously unknown, kind hearted twin brother that has been imprisoned and kept away from the public.
Perhaps the most popular use of the evil twin and one that has become synonymous with the concept is Star Trek’s Mirror Universe. This explores the idea of parallel universes where events play out differently and these differences have very distinct effects on the inhabitants of these other worlds. In this case, a transporter mishap sends Captain Kirk and his away team into an alternate dimension where they find themselves aboard an Enterprise comprised of evil doppelgangers of their friends and allies. You know they are evil because they have goatees, another image synonymous with the concept of the evil twin.
The multiverse concept constantly comes into play in popular fiction when it comes to exploring the evil twin motif.
On Earth-1, the prime reality in the vast DC Multiverse, the Justice League of America is the world’s greatest super heroes. However, on Earth-3, the Crime Syndicate of Amerika is a team of super villains that rule their world with an iron fist. They are identical mirror images of the heroic JLA, only they are evil.
What if your alternate dimensional twin was out to get you?
That is the idea driving the narrative of the 2001 film The One starring Jet Li. When a multiverse law enforcement officer accidently discovers when his counterpart on a parallel world dies he becomes faster and stronger, he sets out on a quest to murder all his interdimensional twins across the entire multiverse and become known simply as the One, a singular being of mythical power.
Continuing with the multiverse model of the evil twin…
Reed Richards, the Marvel Universe’s Mister Fantastic, is the world’s greatest scientific mind and the patriarch of Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four. In the multiverse, he resides on Earth 616, the main stream Marvel U. Once upon a time, before the events of Ultimatum destroyed it and Secret War wiped it from existence, there was the Ultimate Universe. On this parallel world a younger, brasher version of Reed Richards also had a Fantastic Four. However, after this younger version of Richards suffers a mental breakdown, he loses his mind and becomes the dark, twisted twin of Mister Fantastic known as The Maker. With his powers and intelligence and unscrupulous, conscienceless scientific experiments, the Maker is a very dark, very scary evil twin of Reed Richards.
But, before the Maker, there was Dark Beast. When the world’s history was altered by the events of Legion Quest, it became a dark place ruled by a powerful and cruel despot. In this Age of Apocalypse, the ever-lovin’, bouncing-blue fur ball, Hank McCoy, is a dark evil version of himself. In this new reality, the Beast is a mad scientist that performs horrible forbidden experiments on his fellow mutants. Much like the Maker, who found a way to crossover after the demise of the Ultimate Universe, the Dark Beast also managed to survive the demise of his plane of existence and make his way to the 616.
And, even before the Dark Beast and the Maker, the Hulk traveled into a possible future where he came face-to-face with himself, a cruel, nasty, bitter, devious, despot with unparalleled power known as the Maestro.
Just imagine the nightmare these three evil twins could be for the Marvel Universe if they ever joined forces.
From demonic spirits assuming the form of small town citizens to cousins baring strikingly similar features to the dearly departed to coming face-to-face with your reflected fears in the otherworldly domain known as the Black Lodge, fans of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s seminal Twin Peaks are quite familiar with the concept of evil doppelgangers. The shows untimely end features many harrowing cliffhangers, the most infamous being the fate of the story’s hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper, as the last shot of the series is him being replaced by an evil version of himself. It would be over 25 years later, as eerily predicted by Laura Palmer’s spiritual doppelganger, before this groundbreaking series would show the audience what Cooper’s fate was and what his evil twin, the diabolical Mr. C, has been up to all this time.
Sometimes an evil twin can be a construct or a tool to deceive a hero’s allies and friends like in the cases of the robotic Faker and Albert. Sometimes a robotic evil twin can be used to try and destroy the original like how Hugo Strange tried to do to the Dynamic Duo. Sometimes an evil twin can be a nightmarish product of super science gone horribly wrong like in the case of the demented Cyborg-Superman or the ill-conceived cybernetic clone of Thor known as Ragnarok. And, sometimes robots or androids of the same design can take on entirely different molds as with the case of Lieutenant Commander Data and his evil twin Lore.
Depending upon which day of the week it is, Bizarro can be a doppelganger of Superman from the backwards place called Bizarroworld, or Bizarro can be a failed cloned constructed by Lex Luthor. No matter which Bizarro you are dealing with, he is always a thorn in the side of Superman.
Often an evil twin is a twisted reflection of the hero, a challenge they must face and overcome, a cracked mirror image that exposes the basest fears and potential danger the hero knows lies within.
In Superman III, after being exposed to a fabricated form of Kryptonite, Kal-El is reduced to a dark, grim, selfish version of himself. It is a version that is so diametrically opposed to his natural goodness that it literally tears him apart into two beings, his light half and his dark. These twins battle to the death to determine which version of the Man of Tomorrow will prevail. Luckily for the world, the evil twin loses.
In 1994, after his seeming demise at the Royal Rumble, the Undertaker was M.I.A. for months. Then, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase introduced his own Undertaker to the world. At SummerSlam ’94, the real Undertaker would return and face his doppelganger in a battle of titans in the main event, and after three comatose-inducing Tombstones, he would prove there is only ONE Undertaker.
In Garth Ennis’ The Boys, when Homelander learns that a bent twin of himself is responsible for some of the more gruesome and despicable crimes he has been accused of, he is forced to face the consequences of his own twisted actions and askew mental perceptions of the world.
In the tale The Choice, Steve Rogers was stripped of his title and shield. Over the course of the next 18 months, Rogers would embark on a soul quest. Taking on the name of the Captain, Rogers would face his dark twin, both figuratively and physically. He takes on John Walker, the man that replaced him as Captain America, a man cracking under the pressure of the responsibility of being the Sentinel of liberty. And he takes on the Red Skull, but now his arch enemy wears his face as the villain’s consciousness now resides in a cloned body of Steve Rogers.
Way back when I was but a tike, the first time the Odinson can remember crossing paths with the concept of the evil twin was in the pages of Fantastic Four #203. In this tale, a young boy with psychic powers lies in a coma. Unintentionally, his psionic abilities manifest and bring to life twisted tulpas of Marvel’s First Family, and the FF are forced to battle their evil twins.
Whether it’s a goatee-sporting evil version of yourself from an alternate dimension, a robotic imposter, or a ne’er-do-well doppelganger, if there is one thing popular fiction has taught us, it’s that an evil twin can be scary.
Next week, the Odinson concludes his countdown to Halloween 2020 with a look at unconventional slasher stories.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: Be sure to check out my book – Autumn Dawn: A Glen Haven Tale. Available in Paperback, on Kindle, and Audiobook.