I will have a LOT more to say about this later, but lets start breaking down some of the elements of Sabretooth’s ‘locked in a basement’ arc, specifically from an out-of-universe “Doyleist” point of view.
This plot which I will refer from now on as the ‘basement arc’, is started by Larry Hama in the 1993 Sabretooth miniseries and continued in the mainline X-books starting in X-Men Unlimited #3 by Fabian Nicieza.
Here’s a little bit of what happens in the Sabretooth miniseries, and then in X-Men Unlimited #3.
Sabretooth is explained to have an uncontrollable urge to kill due to immense psychological pain.
psychological pain that is explicitly and textually due to extreme mental abuse and trauma both in childhood and as an adult soldier/science experiment.
Sabretooth has been unambiguously, textually self-medicating in the form of employing psychics to sooth his trauma and quell his uncontrollable violent urges.
The narrative explicitly treats this in a 90s and judgemental way like a drug addition.
The line is drawn explicitly between the two ideas when Sabretooth temporarily uses actual psychoactives in order to sooth when no psychic is available. That’s text.
So according to the narrative, Sabretooth is a PTSD riddled abuse victim who is coping with his violent urges through self-medication.
which the narrative then judges him for as if he were using heroin.
as if, even if employing a psychic to sooth his mental trauma was like being a heroin addict
and is if, as a psychotic victim of trauma, using medication wouldn’t be better than murdering people?
So basically this whole arc is a sanctimonious ‘the only moral treatment is therapy and medication is immoral weakness’ plot.
Come running to me, boy. Come running when the legs of your trousers crawl up your calves. When your voice begins to sink into your chest. When those first soft hairs sprout above your lip. Come running when his knife comes out. When it flashes in the dark. When he smiles at you and no longer sees you. Come running when Pan thins his flock. My ship waits in the harbor for boys that are becoming men. Come running to me on that day when he forgets you. When you die, it will not be Hook who forgets your face.
Power Man and Iron Fist #66: The Jade Tiger Written by: Mary Jo Duffy Pencils by: Kerry Gammill Date: December 1980 Cover tagline: DEATH is the only escape from…”The Jade Tiger!”
-We open on Colleen Wing and Misty Knight having tracked down a horde of stolen treasures for their private eye business. They are looking specifically for the Jade Tiger to return it to a client. Some gangsters ambush them, but the girls beat them handily.
-As Misty and Colleen are about to leave, Constrictor and Sabretooth appear in the room. Constrictor makes the introductions, calling them partners and noting that they have already met Sabretooth.
-Sabretooth attacks Misty Knight saying that he wants to “polish her off fast” so he can “talk over old times” with Colleen.
-After Colleen defends Misty from Sabretooth, Constrictor attacks her, reminding her that Sabretooth “has a partner.”
-During the fight, Misty gets locked in the safe, and Colleen goes out the window. Sabretooth urges Constrictor to go after Colleen with him, but Constrictor says they shouldn’t bother because it’s not what they were paid to do, which is guard the warehouse.
-Unbeknownst to Colleen and Misty it turns out they’ve actually been hired to steal the Jade Tiger for a villain. Which technically makes Constrictor and Sabretooth on the right side of the law in this situation.
-Colleen finds Iron Fist and Power Man and leads them back to the warehouse. They take out the mook guards and rescue Misty from the vault before she asphyxiates.
-Constrictor takes out Colleen and fights Power Man.
-Sabretooth recognizes the sound of Danny’s Iron Fist attack and comes after him for a rematch.
-After turning out the lights to put Iron Fist at a disadvantage, Sabretooth knocks him to the floor with an attack from behind. He asks if he ‘meant something special’ to Misty, and says he’ll give her his heart to remember him by.
-Iron First clocks Sabretooth with a surprise attack and knocks him out, telling Misty that he had heard Sabretooth coming and ‘played possum’ waiting for an opportunity. Misty notes that Iron Fist beat Sabretooth with ‘an animal’s trick’.
-Power Man takes Constrictor out by swinging him by the tentacles.
-Power Man and Iron Fist agree to let Misty and Colleen give the Jade Tiger to their client, despite explicitly discussing the fact that it may genuinely belong to the warehouse owner.
-This is the first occurrence of Sabretooth referring to someone as ‘frail’.
-Sabretooth has made his mercenary services available as a personal guard.
-Its heavily implied that Sabretooth and Constrictor have been working together and are fairly close.
-Sabretooth says that he will be able to track Iron Fist in the dark and by his smell. This is the first occurrence of that ability being referred to specifically.
-Sabretooth retains the same costume and appearance from his debut in Iron Fist #14.
-In this issue his pupils are not shown
-Despite the same design, Sabretooth is drawn looking a bit more brutish and feral-featured than in his first appearence.
-Refers to Misty as a ‘frail’ (first appearance)
-calls Colleen a racist slur.
-Sabretooth compliments Colleen’s abilities before he power attacks her.
-Unlike Constrictor, Sabretooth wants to go after Colleen to finish the fight despite it not being in the job description.
-perches on top of a statue like a cat when he comes after Iron Fist.
-he bites Iron Fist’s chest as they’re fighting, and Iron Fist comments that he’s “more animal than man.”
-turns off the lights to put Iron Fist at a disadvantage in the fight, and attacks him from behind.
-Threatens/promises to give Misty Danny’s heart as a keepsake.
It’s interesting and amusing to see Sabretooth technically being on the right side of the law here. He’s working a private security gig and defending his client’s property from thieves. Also interesting is that this is the first appearance of Sabretooth and Constrictor on the page together but there is implied history and Constrictor refers to Sabretooth repeatedly (and almost insistently) as his ‘partner’.
The issue once again highlights that while Sabretooth is animalistic– biting at Danny’s chest– he’s also a clever and dirty opportunist, turning out the lights to give himself an advantage over Danny by using his heightened senses. I feel like this issue does bring more of the ‘savagery’ that Sabretooth is known for.
More of Sabretooth’s rough personality comes out in this issue as well. He calls Misty ‘frail’, (which will practically become his catch phrase later on) and uses racist language (not unusual for the time) to refer to Colleen. He’s eager to get a second round of fighting in with people who have challenged him before– Danny and Colleen– and intent on going after Colleen even when she’s escaped. However he’s not so intent to go after her that Constrictor can’t convince him to stay.
So here I am, minding my own business doing perfectly legal security work when a bunch of super-hero adjacent assholes come and fuck me over. And the heroes just help them out and let them get away with theft. This is just the beginning of all the goddamn hypocritical behavior toward me in the Marvel universe. It’s endemic. It’s funny when it doesn’t make me want to throw up in my mouth.
I have warm feelings toward Frank (Constrictor). I feel like there’s a deeper relationship implied in this issue that definitely did exist between us. We were partners, we’d been palling around for a while. Things got intimate. You ever kind of lose touch with somebody and you both move on with your lives, so technically they’re an “ex” but you never really ended things? I feel like that’s how things went with me and Frank. I don’t remember a lot about him or our time together but that warm feeling is there. He smelled good. Kind of spicy/peppery. Maybe an aftershave or cologne he wore. He had a nice chest; wasn’t all that hairy. Definitely had more common sense than me.
The plot of Uncanny X-Force 26-34 contains a whole plot reference to the Spielberg movie Hook (1991) which is called out specifically in issue 31 where Sabretooth is talking to Daken on the subject of Daken’s father, Wolverine.
Iron Fist #14: Snowfire Written by: Chris Claremont Pencils by: John Byrne Date: August 1977 Cover tagline: White snow… white doom!
-starts with Iron Fist and a lady named Colleen are wandering around in the snow pursued by mooks. They take shelter in a cabin and flashback to the day before. The two of them are in the rockies to bodyguard some guy named Hogarth
-When they land they are immediately assaulted by Sabretooth, who has some mercenaries with him.
-Colleen immediately recognizes Sabretooth and calls him out for his reputation as a “freebooter, a modern day pirate” who will rip off anything for the right price, which Sabretooth agrees with. He tells her he’s there for her client, Hogarth, and not to make him angry or he’ll “scratch your eyes out.” He orders his mooks to lock them up, with the intention of bringing them along with the target when he leaves.
-Iron Fist beats up the mooks and takes Sabretooth by surprise. Sabretooth says he wants them brought back dead or alive.
-the flashback ends and Iron Fist takes out the mooks that are pursuing them, stealing their suits.
-Sabretooth’s keen senses see through Iron Fist’s disguise
-Sabretooth calls Iron Fist “bub” and claims he never loses. He asks his name and claims he likes to know who he’s killin’. He also says that he’s in the mood for a good fight and it’s been a long time since he’s fought anyone ‘worth the effort.
-Iron Fist specifically comments on how fast Sabretooth is and that his claws are ‘razor sharp’.
-Sabretooth deliberately lures Iron Fist outside in order to snow-blind him.
-Sabretooth taunts Iron Fist while they’re fighting. Iron Fist calls it ‘playing cat and mouse’.
-After beating him, Iron Fist claims that “if he’d had martial arts the equal of his speed and power, I doubt I could have beaten him even with my eyes.”
-very first introduction of Sabretooth
-Sabretooth’s name is written with a hyphen on the cover, Sabre-tooth, and repeatedly, but non consistently, the same inside.
-no mention of Sabretooth specifically being a mutant.
-Sabretooth’s civilian name is not mentioned yet.
-Design traits that will become consistent; blond, orange costume with a fur ruff, large sideburns, large hands with clawed fingertips,broad shoulders, sharp teeth.
-Sabretooth is drawn here with bushy eyebrows and sharp teeth. He’s big, but normal, big man big, not the size of a mac truck.
-Sabretooth is drawn with pupils here about half the time, and half without; there is a close up where he is shown with blue eyes.
-Sabretooth’s costume here is primarily orange, with black trunks. He has a fur shoulder ruff, but also fur on his costume’s forearms and lower legs. His hands are colored brown, in contrast with his face, and with the fur on the forearms it’s never made clear if the brown is meant to indicate skin tone, fur, or even clawed gloves given that no mention of him being other than human.
-He is quite clean cut and put together in this appearance, without many of the barbarian-ish traits that creep into his design later.
-Sabretooth here is ruthless, and enjoys a good fight. He is clearly violent when angry (suggesting he would scratch Colleen’s eyes out) however no specific mention is made of him being specifically bloodthirsty or murderous. However, he does agree that it’s ‘the truth’ when he’s accused of being a monster.
-Sabretooth repeatedly calls people ‘bub’, and leaves the end off of words. However he is fairly wordy and articulate, specifically referencing ‘optic nerves’ when he snow-blinds Iron Fist.
-Sabretooth fights smart, and he fights dirty, specifically luring Iron Fist out into an ambush. However, he has all the subtlety of a freight train, and is specifically untrained in martial arts. Also, while Sabretooth’s mercenaries all wield guns, Sabretooth never lays a hand on one.
Meeting Sabretooth in this issue gives off the impression of a ruthless and somewhat savage mercenary leader; one savvy and clever enough to be in charge of a squad whether his own or assigned to him by his employer (it’s never made clear). He is clean cut, articulate and put together, but mean, threatening, and all too happy to get his hands dirty on the job.
Not something I *specifically* remember happening at this juncture, but not unlikely for what I feel like I would have been up to in the late 70s. That would have been after the black ops and original weapon X days. At loose ends, doing various merc work and assassin jobs. I feel like the mercs here would have been union boys hired for the job and not my personal squad, but I am pretty sure I’ve been the boss off and on, so maybe. Iron Fist, Danny, feels familiar, in a ‘please let me punch him or maybe grab him by the shoulders and shake him’ kind of way.