For the latest in our series featuring the Obscure Marvel Women of the Original Marvel Universe, we present an ordinary nurse whose life was turned upside-down after a chance encounter with the world’s mutants. Forced to reckon with powers beyond her comprehension, she would find herself changed forever inside and out.
Sharon Friedlander was born towards the end of World War II to a Jewish family in suburban New York. Growing up in the 1950s, Sharon decided she wanted to become a nurse, and finally realized her ambition in the mid-1960s when she graduated from nursing school and found a position at the Mid-County Medical Center near Salem Center, NY, in Westchester County.
Sharon’s life took an unexpected turn one night in the summer of 1972, during a ferocious thunderstorm, when Danielle Moonstar, a student from the nearby Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, was brought to the emergency room after having apparently been mauled by a large bear. Though her prognosis was poor, the doctors scrambled to try to save the girl’s life, and Sharon saw to making Dani’s friends comfortable in the waiting room for their long vigil. However, three hours later, while Sharon was being chatted up by Officer Tom Corsi of the Westchester County police, the pair was suddenly attacked by a shadowy, monstrous bear. Sharon heard Tom’s gun go off, and then everything went black.
To her horror, Sharon found herself and Tom transported to another dimension, which looked like an unspoiled version of America’s Great Plains, where they were prisoners of the giant Demon Bear that had attacked them. Dani’s friends were also present, but they now wore yellow-and-black costumes and demonstrated superhuman powers. Rather than fight its enemies directly, the Demon Bear transformed Sharon and Tom into hideous demonic warriors to do its bidding. Unable to resist the Bear’s will, they attacked the young heroes with bolts of black lightning and eldritch weapons. Still, Dani’s friends prevailed and the Demon Bear was destroyed. Its intended victims were cast back to Earth as the Bear was torn apart. Unfortunately, upon reviving, Sharon and Tom found their physical features had been completely changed, leaving them looking like members of the Cheyenne Nation.
When Professor Xavier finally arrived, he invited the distraught Sharon and Tom back to his school, which they learned was really the headquarters of the mutant superhero team the X-Men, where Dani and her friends made up the novice class, the so-called “New Mutants.” They were accompanied by Dani’s parents, William and Peg Lonestar, who had been trapped within the Demon Bear’s form until it was destroyed. As such, they knew that Sharon and Tom’s transformation was permanent, and sure enough, despite a thorough examination, the team’s resident sorceress, Illyana Rasputin, failed to find any enchantment to return them to normal.
Unable to go back to their former lives, Sharon and Tom agreed to recuperate from their ordeal at Moira MacTaggert’s Mutant Research Centre on Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland, while Professor Xavier dealt with the ramifications of their sudden “disappearance.” He remained hopeful that their condition could be remedied, but as the months passed, no solution could be found. When Sharon looked in the mirror, she saw the face of a stranger. Her hair was much longer and coarser, her once-blue eyes were now dark, her skin had changed color, and she was noticeably taller. One beneficial side-effect of the change was discovered: they were both now essentially perfect physical specimens with strength and endurance enhanced to nearly-superhuman levels. This offered cold comfort to Sharon, although Tom seemed to have an easier time adjusting to his new body.
Come December, Sharon and Tom again fell victim to uncanny phenomena when another patient of Dr. MacTaggert’s, young David Haller, used his telepathic powers to absorb their minds into his own, leaving their bodies in a vegetative state. They were soon rescued by Professor Xavier with some of his students and were reunited with their physical forms. However, as a result of the ordeal, Xavier himself remained comatose for another two weeks, so Dr. MacTaggert asked Sharon to act as his nurse, which helped her feel useful again. Her training came in handy when Xavier suffered a severe psychotic episode some time before regaining consciousness.
In March 1973, Sharon and Tom were recruited to join the staff of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters by Magneto, the reformed super-villain who became the new headmaster when Professor Xavier went into outer space for an extended period. Sharon was glad for the chance to return to the United States and work as a nurse again. Though she still felt cut off from her old life, Sharon enjoyed working with the New Mutants and tried to provide a balance for Magneto’s hard-driving approach. The X-Men were more intimidating, but Sharon eventually grew comfortable around them as well, and by summertime she had settled into a happy routine.
However, in October, a cosmic entity with godlike powers known as the Beyonder, who had been wreaking havoc on Earth for several months, decided to punish the New Mutants for a perceived slight by killing them and then erasing all memory of their existence. Thus, Sharon and Tom entered a kind of fugue state for many weeks, living on the now-empty Xavier estate, until the Beyonder finally undid what he had wrought. The school was re-created exactly as it was before, and the New Mutants were resurrected, although the experience had caused them severe psychic trauma. Sharon did what she could to help them, but soon realized she was out of her depth.
By January 1974, Sharon, Tom, and Magneto were at their wit’s end as to getting the students the help they desperately needed. But then, while hiking on the grounds, Sharon and Tom spotted an intruder spying on the mansion and recognized him as one of the Hellions, a rival team of young mutants from a school in Massachusetts. Contemptuously, the boy called Empath unleashed his mutant power to control people’s emotions, causing Sharon and Tom to be overcome suddenly with an insatiable lust for each other. Though rationally they knew they were being manipulated, they could not resist the passion they felt, and the two went on a sexual bender that dragged on for weeks. Like drug addicts, the pair sought increasingly intense experiences to satisfy their need, and fled to New York City for its sadomasochistic underworld. There, they experimented with shaving, piercing, and hard-core bondage, finally being locked into leather fetish costumes which they could not entirely remove. All the while they felt more and more hollow inside. Though death seemed their only release, they refused to give Empath that satisfaction, and somehow found the strength to drag themselves back to Xavier’s School. Sharon collapsed from exhaustion before they arrived, and Tom carried her into the mansion before his own strength gave out. Magneto released them from their fetishwear and carried them to the infirmary where he and another teacher, Stevie Hunter, looked after them. Learning what Empath had done, Magneto swore vengeance, but was forced to set it aside when the Hellions’ mentor, Emma Frost, was needed to lend her telepathic talents to the New Mutants’ recovery.
Though free from Empath’s influence, Sharon and Tom both sunk into a severe depression and felt alienated from each other for the first time. The memories of their sexual escapades were too raw, causing both to withdraw into themselves and avoid the other, as well as to shun human contact in general. Sharon only began to come out of her funk many weeks later when the X-Men converted their headquarters into a medevac center following a massacre of the Morlocks, a population of mutants living underneath New York City, by a band of assassins called the Marauders. While battling the Marauders, a number of the X-Men were themselves badly wounded. Sharon struggled to keep up with the patient load as Dr. Moira MacTaggert was called in for her medical expertise. Fortunately, Wolverine managed to rescue a Morlock with the power to heal people with a touch, and he was able to stabilize many of the worst cases. Finally, due to the lack of proper facilities and the danger from their enemies, the X-Men decided to evacuate all the wounded to Muir Isle, where Sharon and Tom again took up residence.
That summer, Sharon met the Fantastic Four when Magneto attempted to enlist the help of Reed Richards to stop the molecular discorporation of Shadowcat due to injuries suffered during the fight with the Marauders. When Richards proved unable to help, the team turned to the villain Doctor Doom, who promised to succeed where his rival had failed. Thus, the X-Men took Shadowcat to Latveria, where Doom and Richards worked together and saved her life.
As their other patients recovered, Dr. MacTaggert opened Muir Isle to the “Warpies,” a group of children mutated by the phenomenon known as the Jaspers Warp, as part of an agreement with two British-based agencies, the Weird Happenings Organisation (WHO) and the Resources Control Executive (RCX). Dealing with these unfortunate children and their bizarre mutations helped Sharon put her own transformation into perspective, and her outlook on life improved. They were saddened, however, by news reports that the X-Men had sacrificed their lives to destroy a monster in Dallas, Texas.
Many months passed as Sharon and Tom settled into their new lives at the Mutant Research Centre. Things began to change, though, in the spring of 1975 after former X-Man Polaris arrived on the island. Sharon suddenly found herself embracing the darker aspects of her personality, and Tom developed a new fascination with big guns. Dr. MacTaggert also began to dress more provocatively and adopted a harsher, more confrontational tone. The quiet of the island was shattered soon after when the Centre was attacked by a group of mutant-killing cyborgs called the Reavers. Dr. MacTaggert ordered everyone into the standard X-Men uniforms she had devised, which in addition to affording protection from environmental extremes, also acted as body armor, being essentially bullet-proof. Sharon found she enjoyed wearing the skintight costume and liked the way it highlighted her physique. The Reavers were driven off with the help of Freedom Force, the U.S. government’s mutant taskforce, but Sharon continued to wear her costume in any case.
As Polaris had revealed that the X-Men were still alive and in hiding, Dr. MacTaggert’s lover, Sean Cassidy, a.k.a. Banshee, set off with a man called Forge to find them. Following their departure, the situation on Muir Isle quickly worsened as everyone succumbed to their most evil inclinations and basest instincts, for they were all unwitting victims of the sinister telepath known as the Shadow King. As such, Dr. MacTaggert allied herself with the sorceress Amanda Sefton and took Polaris prisoner, hooking her up to a strange device they called the Nexus to amplify the Shadow King’s power. Sharon saw to the prisoner’s physical needs and found herself delighting sadistically in Polaris’ helplessness. Furthermore, Dr. MacTaggert established a gladiatorial arena where the island’s mutant residents would battle for the entertainment of the others. Sharon was responsible for patching up the losers so they could fight again, to which end she forced the Morlock Healer to tax his abilities to the limit.
Finally, Banshee and Forge returned to the island, having brought the X-Men with them. They confronted the Shadow King, whose plans they had since discovered, and were joined by Professor Xavier, just returned to Earth, and the team X-Factor, made up of his original students. In the course of their showdown, though, the Mutant Research Centre was obliterated by a tremendous explosion that scorched a large area of the island’s surface. Luckily, Sharon, Tom, and some others were protected from the blast in the complex’s lowest sub-level. Ultimately, by disrupting the Nexus and freeing Polaris, the X-Men severed the Shadow King’s link to the physical world and his psychic essence was destroyed, thus freeing everyone on the island from his vile influence. Sharon was horrified at having been victimized yet again.
Having lost her own facilities, Dr. MacTaggert decided to return to America temporarily to help the X-Men re-establish their headquarters at the mansion in Westchester County, which also needed to be rebuilt. Sharon and Tom went along to resume their former duties at Xavier’s, though the “school” no longer had any actual students. Once the X-Men had everything up and running, Sharon Friedlander took stock of her life and realized she needed to look to the future.
First Appearance: New Mutants #19
Final Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #278