Most of you may remember Black Tom Cassidy from the small part he played in the ‘90s X-Men Animated Series during the Phoenix Saga. Or perhaps his ridiculous appearance in Deadpool 2.
Black Tom is a Scottish mutant with the ability to channel energy through wood for an assortment of effects ranging from blasts to defensive shields. Strange, and oddly specific, I know.
He’s also a first cousin of the X-Man Banshee, Sean Cassidy. Since his comic debut in 1976’s Uncanny X-Men #101, he’s played the part of a mustache-twirling baddie, with no redeeming qualities to speak of. Normally participating in theft, and/or kidnapping.
Unlike many X-Men villains that stick around longer than an era or so, Black Tom never toyed with the idea of being a hero. On the contrary, as time passed, he became more and more unstable. While recovering from wounds he suffered at the hands of Cable, a material similar to wood was used to accelerate his healing. The process led to his body being engulfed by the substance until he was left with a body mostly made of plants. It also made him a great deal more violent, and belligerent.
At the height of his murderous insanity, Black Tom crushed and twisted the body of a young mutant named Sammy. The child had become the friend of Tom’s former partner Juggernaut and despite the begging and pleas from the giant man, Tom slew Sammy and left him to die in Marko’s arms. After M-Day, Black Tom’s secondary mutation had vanished. Though he lost his monstrous appearance, he regained a measure of his sanity and came to regret much of what he’d done.
Though the last time we saw Black Tom, he and Juggernaut were robbing a cruise ship, Tom is now a citizen of Krakoa. He’s not just one of those sun-bathing, trouple-types either. He’s taken a much more active role as part of the mutant nation. When Black Tom’s body transformed, he didn’t just look like a living plant. He was able to control plant life around him (to a point) and expand, and build upon his own body. It seems, though he’s back to looking like his old self, he retained a portion of those augmented abilities.
Much like Cypher can verbally commune with Krakoa, Black Tom can extend his awareness throughout much of Krakoa itself. Kind of like a symbiote. This grants Tom a measure of omniscience. While connected to Krakoa, Black Tom is about as aware of everything happening on the island as Krakoa itself.
By tapping into the roots, vines, and other plant-life, down to the pollen in the air and plankton in the seas, Black Tom can keep tabs on the whole isle! With this level of awareness at his fingertips, Black Tom acts as the island’s living security system and one of its first responders.
In a way, he’s “big brother” in the flesh. It’s not a role that was thrust upon him without question, however. In X-Force #1 during a conversation with Professor Xavier, Black Tom learned that members of Krakoa’s Quiet Council had challenged his credentials for such a duty. With his checkered past, I’d be shocked if it wasn’t brought up again even if his powers garner him some reprieve. In the same issue, Krakoa is attacked by members of a group looking to “strike back” at the mutants. Lives were lost, but without Tom’s assistance, the casualties would have been greater.
To be frank, the X-Men need people like Black Tom Cassidy, Magneto, Frenzy, Exodus, and Marrow on their side. The world that’s been known to eradicate their kind by the thousands or millions at a time isn’t going to just sit back and allow them to thrive. The first issue of X-Force proved that beyond their island paradise is a world with teeth and claws. They cannot afford to be soft or get caught basking in their short-lived success. They’ve achieved the impossible. But they’ll need men like Black Tom to help them keep it.