Spoilers ahead! Catch up on Legion before you go any further.
Legion is without a doubt one of the most interesting, brilliant television series to come along in some time. Noah Hawley’s FX series pulls from Marvel’s X-Men for its source material, but has developed its own distinct voice and lore. Legion not only shows what’s possible in a “superhero” show, but also on television in general. One of the most fascinating aspects of Legion’s first season has been the depiction of its flat-out terrifying antagonist, The Shadow King. Aubrey Plaza’s portrayal of the psychically dangerous foe has been nothing short of the best work of her career. The series has done a remarkably good job at being consistent with the Shadow King’s history from the comics, but there’s still a lot of lore left on the cutting room floor. With Legion’s first season just having wrapped up, and the Shadow King appearing to very much still be in the picture, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Shadow King.
15. It’s a Multiversal Manifestation of Humanity’s Darkness
The Shadow King is that very special sort of villain where if they’re holding a grudge against someone it’s almost surely certain doom for them. Created by X-Men heavy hitters Chris Claremont and John Byrne back in X-Men #117 in 1979, the Shadow King is a manifestation of all of the darkness found in human consciousness across all universes. The entity came into existence from the very first nightmare and has steadily been growing, eventually forming Shadow King. Since its creation, the Shadow King has transferred from host to host, in search of the perfect companion, but for the bulk of his appearances in the comics, (including his first one) the Shadow King has used the human host, Amahl Farouk. Farouk’s intense psychic powers originally saw himself unintentionally controlling people nearby. As Farouk’s dark host fed on the blackness of people’s souls, both their powers rose to alarming levels. The Shadow King (and Amahl Farouk, by proxy) is the second strongest telepathic mutant out there, with Professor Xavier obviously in the lead.
14. In the Ultimate Marvel Series, He’s Storm’s Lover
Even incredibly powerful telepaths get jealous and possessive in romantic affairs. In fact, hearing a loved one’s thoughts are almost certainly going to drive any psychic crazier than they already are. Ultimate Marvel has made many curious changes to classic characters, and while some are for the better, others are much more questionable. The comics line chooses to re-position the Shadow King as Storm’s romantic partner, as well as the leader of a ruthless group of thieves that both she and Lady Deathstrike are members of. With this version of the character, Storm accidentally sends her lover into a coma by electrocuting him. It’s here that his mind enters the astral plane, encounters the Brood, and becomes the Shadow King in the first place.
Through the years the Shadow King has developed an unhealthy fascination with the weather-controlling mutant. A lot of Shadow King’s plot lines end up involving Ororo in some sense, with certain stories being entirely centered around him kidnapping Storm or taking control of her. Storm’s great and all, but the Shadow King needs to take a hint and move on. There are plenty of other mutants in the sea.
13. He Appears in X-Men: The Animated Series and Wolverine and the X-Men
Even though The Shadow King might be a mutant that skews to the more niche side of the X-Men universe, that didn’t stop several of the animated X-Men series from utilizing the character. The formidable X-Men: The Animated Series from the ‘90s uses the Shadow King in his traditional sense, with him acting as a strong opponent from Xavier’s past. Two episodes are devoted to the Shadow King as a threat, with the installments even dipping into flashbacks to highlight a young Charles Xavier’s initial encounter with the evil mutant. Curiously, this version of Amahl Farouk is a middle-aged man with a beard who’s in rather good shape, rather than the obese, relatively hairless version from the comics.
The more recent series, Wolverine and the X-Men has the Shadow King appear in the episode “Overflow,” instead dealing with the character’s history with Storm. The series goes to some dark places with Shadow King not only possessing Storm, but causing her to set Africa on fire and watch the ensuing devastation. In the end, Emma Frost is the one that takes the telepath to task, defeating him with a telepathic sword during a showdown on the astral plane.
12. He’s One of the Three Main Villains in the X-Men Legends Video Game
There are dozens of X-Men video games out there, but seeing the Shadow King in computer-generated form is going to require popping in 2004’s popular X-Men Legends. Players take control of Alison Crestmere, a fresh-faced volcanic-based mutant who’s taken into the X Mansion and the exciting world of mutanthood and fighting evil. Later going by the X-Men handle, Magma, Alison helps the X-Men as they face the threats of Magneto (who’s packing a gigantic asteroid), General William Kincaid (who’s packing a gigantic Sentinel), and the Shadow King. The Shadow King makes a sizeable dent in the game, with the character putting Illyana (Ororo must have been missing) into a psychic coma. Freeing Illyana from Shadow King’s hold requires Xavier, Emma Frost, and Jean Grey, and in the end Xavier still ends up getting captured by the evil entity. Xavier eventually gets the better hand psychically on the Shadow King, with him being able to re-join the X-Men and Alison on their mission, but Shadow King’s stamp is certainly left on the team. In spite of the game receiving a sequel with X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, Shadow King does not re-appear the second time around.
11. In X-Treme X-Men and X-Men: True Friends He’s an Astral Plane Demon From the Dawn of Man
X-Treme X-Men and X-Men: True Friends might not be the most popular X-Men series, but they actually do some rather creative things with the Shadow King. X-Treme and True Friends basically relegate Shadow King into the psychic equivalent of The Flash’s time wraiths. Here the Shadow King takes on the much more frightening form of a demon that’s existed since the beginning of humanity, largely haunting the astral plane. Rather than focusing on one specific host, this demonic version of the Shadow King chooses to enslave mass amounts of psychics and telepaths and in turn using their psychic abilities to take control of even more people. It’s essentially a mind control chain letter, which is never a good thing. True Friends and X-Treme X-Men pay some respect to Amahl Farouk’s original obese appearance by having the more prominent hosts of the Shadow King adopt an obese, unsightly appearance as a result of the darkness and hedonism that the demon brings forward.
10. He Worked for Hitler in the 1930s
It might not be what he’s putting at the top of his resume, but the Shadow King’s alias, Amahl Farouk, actually worked for the Nazis back in 1931. Farouk might not have been dealing with Hitler directly, but he was answering to Wolfgang von Strucker and Geist, who were two of Hitler’s highly regarded special agents. Geist and Von Strucker’s whole aim was to rob King Edward of England of his kingdom, with a fascist ruler in Hitler’s pocket filling his position. Farouk ends up accidentally summoning Rachel Summers (who’s the host of the Phoenix Force at the time) and Kitty Pryde with his abilities. Farouk concocts a complicated scheme involving making sacrifices to demons in exchange for the decimation of England’s kingdom. With Farouk’s sacrifice going unfulfilled, the demons involved go into Farouk’s body and overpower him. This conveniently leads to this excess energy being let out in an explosion which kills many Nazi soldiers. This all culminates in Farouk getting desperate and possessing a number of people, including house servants, all to save his ass. The battle even gets the Phoenix Force involved before Shadow King is beaten on the astral plane by Kitty Pryde.
9. He Actually Does Take Over David Haller in the Comics
The Shadow King has been able to put himself on the map for non-comic fans by antagonizing the cast of Legion so effectively this season. It makes sense that a series that is interested in such an important psychic mutant would in turn look to a villain that has similar abilities, albeit in a much more manipulative sense. The Shadow King is a perfect villain for the Legion television show, but in the comics world, the Shadow King also succeeds in briefly taking possession of David Haller.
As is often the case with the Shadow King, his plans often consist of many moving parts, and are not immediately clear. It’s a little discouraging that in this case, David is merely a stepping stone in Farouk getting closer to Storm, rather than the ambition shown in the series, but he still makes his time with David count. The Shadow King commandeers Cerebro and Legion (David Haller) in the process, not to mention Moira MacTaggert, Valerie Cooper, and Carol Danvers, too. The Shadow King’s plans ultimately fail, but it does put him on David’s radar.
8. He Was Possessing Karma for 28 Issues of The New Mutants
One of the larger twists to drop out of The New Mutants is that the mutant Karma had actually been possessed by the Shadow King for 28 issues. The reveal happens in New Mutants #34 that ever since early issue #6, Karma had the greedy Shadow King in control of her. It was not until issue #26 that Farouk actually refers to himself as the Shadow King, but there’s no mistaking what’s going on here. Karma has the psychic power of possessing other people, and the Shadow King takes an interest in Karma and begins to watch her grow. Then, during an explosion that was thought to have killed Karma, the Shadow King took the opportunity to take possession of her. Karma makes quite the good host for the Shadow King, with her allowing him to build an army of followers, while also taking control of Storm and Mirage. It finally takes Magik’s powers to fix the situation and free Karma of her unwanted host.
7. He Ran the Dark X-Men as Professor Xavier on Earth-6141
X-Men’s New Excalibur is a lot of crazy, nonsensical fun that makes for a reasonable distraction. New Excalibur follows the events of “House of M,” which in this case sees the Shadow King escaping from his prison and relocating on sunny Earth-6141. What follows is one of the most twisted “What If?” scenarios imaginable, where the Shadow King takes control of Earth-6141’s Professor X. If that weren’t enough, this newly evil Professor X uses his influence to brainwash the X-Men, and thus the Dark X-Men are born. Shadow King’s Professor X never leaves the minds of his Dark X-Men and actually uses them as tools to murder all of the other remaining heroes left in the world. The Shadow King is able to return to Earth-616 with his Dark X-Men in tow, but thanks to the work of Lionheart, the Dark X-Men are freed from their control, with Dark Xavier perishing and the Shadow King returning to the astral plane, hostless.
6. He’s an Agent of Apocalypse in the “Age of Apocalypse” Universe
The recent X-Men film, X-Men: Apocalypse, might have soured a lot of audiences on the prospects of Apocalypse as an intimidating villain, but in the comics Apocalypse pairs up with the Shadow King in a pretty awesome way. The bleak “Age of Apocalypse” storyline in the comics sees the Shadow King becoming an agent of Apocalypse and the mutant’s own personal telepath radar, following Xavier’s death. Apocalypse uses the Shadow King to hunt resisting telepathic mutants, and train those that do agree to come aboard. The Shadow King is also the one responsible for cluing Apocalypse in to Nate Grey, obtaining the location of Magneto and the X-Men, as well as causing the mass tragedy among the refugees in Avalon due to some rampant mind control. Shadow King is ultimately taken down in Avalon, but he still remains a crucial component of Apocalypse’s outfit, even if there are some hierarchy issues between him and Weapon X.
5. He’s Taken Control of Black Panther to Get Even With Storm
It’s a little surprising that Shadow King hasn’t gotten his own gag comic at this point that highlights all of his ill-advised schemes to win Storm’s heart with an almost Pinky and the Brain-esque level of dedication to the mission. A number of Shadow King’s attempts at getting Ororo’s attention have been singled out here, but certainly one of the most memorable attempts is from X-Men: Worlds Apart, when the Shadow King takes a detour to Wakanda. The Shadow King’s plan here sees him murdering a Wakandan priest and framing the X-Men member, Gentle, in the process. All of this is done as subterfuge for the Shadow King to gain control of the Black Panther. Why? Well, because T’Challa is married to Storm, of course. What follows is the Shadow King really putting Storm through the gauntlet, pitting her against her husband and her team, while also destroying T’Challa’s reputation (and mind). Storm actually puts together a pretty ingenious plan here that involves tricking the Shadow King to possess her, while she actually houses the panther God, Bast, in her mind to take care of the Shadow King. Evidently he tastes just like shadow chicken.
4. He’s Beaten Professor Xavier in the Astral Plane
A lot of the encounters with the Shadow King end up with the malicious entity being defeated on the astral plane. While the villain may have racked up a healthy number of losses on the psychic playground, that doesn’t mean that he also hasn’t turned things around and come out on top, too. In a rather dire situation that sees the Shadow King having taken control of Legion and on the verge of using his powers to blow up Muir Island, Xavier uses Jean Grey as a psi-anchor, allowing himself to enter the astral plane and battle Farouk. Astonishingly though, Xavier isn’t able to keep up with Farouk and the Shadow King beats him. It takes the combined efforts of Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Archangel, and Jean Grey to finally stand up against the Shadow King. After all of this, Xavier still gives Farouk a chance at redemption and to join them, with the mutant of course refusing, instead opting to be left in a coma. Even though the Shadow King might technically rank as the number two of all-time telepath, he’s still able to reach that gold every so often and make Xavier feel like any other loser.
3. He Tried to Make Jean Grey the Shadow Queen
It’s only natural that a villain known as the Shadow King would at some point try to incorporate a character called the Shadow Queen into their history. During one of Jean Grey’s attempts to visit the astral plane with the aid of Cerebro, Farouk ends up intervening and gaining control of the system. It’s during this that Farouk notices that Jean is temporarily defenseless and not the telepathic behemoth that she normally is. He decides that this is the perfect opportunity to turn her into his Shadow Queen, transforming them into some evil psychic super couple. It’s Psylocke in the end who comes to Jean’s aid (psychic mutant gals have to stick together), using her mighty blade to fix matters. Obviously Jean Grey is a much stronger telepath than Ororo is, but after the heavy history between the Shadow King and Storm, it’s kind of hurtful that he never once suggests her for the illustrious title (besides, she’s already the Dark Phoenix). Guess it’s clear where the evil being’s true intentions lie.
2. In the Mutant X Universe, He’s Merged With Professor X to Be an Evil Entity
The Shadow King might be one of Professor X’s greatest enemies, and that naturally makes him a fascinating character to see merged together with the righteous professor. The Mutant X (Earth-1298) sect of the X-Men world posits exactly such an outrageous fusion. Allegedly, a battle between Xavier and the Shadow King led to the two rubbing off on each other. As a result, Magneto has taken up the mantle of leading the X-Men while Xavier can no longer be trusted. Much of the Mutant X storyline has to do with a time-displaced Havok trying to get back to his proper Earth, with the monstrous Xavier/Shadow King hybrid merely acting as background flavor to highlight the broken condition of Earth-1298. That being said, it’s a very rich universe – and we’d love to see more of its Shadow King/Professor X hybrid and less of Havok.
1. He Was Xavier’s First Encounter With an Evil Mutant and His Inspiration to Form the X-Men
This really says it all, doesn’t it? Not only is the Shadow King the living proof for Charles Xavier that there are also evil mutants out in the world, but this cautionary tale is also what inspires Xavier to form a collective of like-minded mutants to take on other villainous mutants. They’re called the X-Men. Does that ring a bell?
In 1971, Xavier is on a trip in Cairo when he finds himself getting pick-pocketed. This incident leads to Xavier discovering Amahl Farouk for the first time. Farouk tries to sway Xavier into joining his cabal of thieves and using his psychic powers for ill deeds. The Shadow King and Xavier’s disagreement sees them taking to the astral plane, with Xavier coming out on top. However, the exchange leaves Xavier so disillusioned in Farouk’s decisions that he’s inspired to take up a new mission in life. Meanwhile, the Shadow King waits dormant in the astral plane, growing hungrier for another chance at taking Xavier down, with whatever means necessary.
This is plenty of psychic ammunition to stock against the Shadow King for the next time you run through Legion’s first season, but is there more telepathic baggage that’s worth discussing? Sound off in the comments below and brace yourself for the long wait for season two.