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Cypher (Marvel Comics)

Cypher from X-Men Legacy #235. Art by Greg Land.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance New Mutants #13 (March 1984)
Created by Chris Claremont
Sal Buscema
In-story information
Alter ego Douglas Aaron "Doug" Ramsey
Species Human Mutant
Team affiliations New Mutants
Abilities Semi-telepathic and semi-clairvoyant omnilingualism (intuitively translates any languages he comes into contact with, including written, spoken, computer, or body language).

Cypher (Douglas "Doug" Ramsey) is a fictional comic book superhero who appears in books published by Marvel Comics, usually in the X-Men family of books, in particular those featuring The New Mutants, of which Cypher has been a member. He is a mutant with the ability to easily understand any language, whether verbal or written.

The character is not related to the female cyborg of the same name who first appeared in Sabretooth and Mystique #1 and is a member of A.I.M.

Publication history

Created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Sal Buscema, the character first appeared in New Mutants #13 (March 1984). Initially used as a supporting cast member, he was assimilated into the titular superteam in New Mutants #21. During his run as a member of the team, Cypher was the least popular of the New Mutants, as series writer Louise Simonson recounted: "He wasn't fun to draw. He just stood around and hid behind a tree during a fight... Every artist who ever did him said 'Can't we kill this guy?' We would get letters from fans about how much they hated him. We never got any letters from people saying they liked him until he was dead."[2]

Cypher was killed in New Mutants #60. The story was acclaimed as one of the most touching moments in the series, and sparked a surge in popularity for the character.[2] Following his death, Cypher was frequently referenced, and even had a solo story in New Mutants Annual #6, appearing as a ghost. Decades later, he was revived as one half of the entity "Douglock".

The character was brought back to life during the 2009 - 2010 "Necrosha" storyline.

Fictional character biography

Doug Ramsey was born to Philip and Sheila Ramsey. Doug became friends with Kitty Pryde, whom he met after she moved to Westchester County to join Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and with whom he shares an interest in video games, computers and computer technology. Kitty's talent for building hardware complements Doug's skill at writing software.[3]

Professor X suspected Doug possessed a mutant power, probably connected with communications, but did not approach him to join the school, perhaps feeling a passive power might go unnoticed. Subsequently, Doug was offered a scholarship to attend Emma Frost's Massachusetts Academy.[4] He did not know at the time that Emma Frost was one of the X-Men's adversaries. When Kitty Pryde accompanied him on his first trip to the Academy, she was captured, and later rescued by the New Mutants. Though Doug's memory of the mutant related events was wiped by Frost, he does not accept the scholarship for reasons not elaborated on.[5]

Doug became a member of the New Mutants after the arrival of the techno-organic alien Warlock, whose inability to communicate with the children requires them to seek out Doug to use his linguistic abilities. In so doing, it is revealed to Doug that both he and they are mutants, and superheroes. With Doug's predisposition for technology, and being more readily able to understand Warlock than most others, the two of them became fast friends.[6]

Whereas Warlock referred to his teammates with the prefix "selfriend", eventually, after saving his life by offering to share some of his own life energy with Warlock, Warlock gives Doug the unique identifier of "Selfsoulfriend".[volume & issue needed]

Doug's mutant power is the ability to intuitively understand and translate any form of communication, be it written, spoken or non-verbal, and regardless of whether the origin of the language is human, computer or even completely alien. His power is not related to his intellect, but it often allows him to make leaps of comprehension that he cannot explain to anyone else, but which are invariably accurate. He was, for instance, able to translate the language of a long-dead species, without any common terms of reference, within a matter of hours.[7] An established hacker, he becomes the team's computer expert and researcher, writing programs for the X-Men's Danger Room.[8]

Doug is the only one of the original New Mutants who never tells his parents he is a mutant, as he fears rejection.[9]

Despite being instrumental in many of his team's successful missions, including those involving saving lives, Doug suffers from occasional feelings of inadequacy. These feeling are driven by his lack of offensive power capabilities and the way Warlock often encapsulates him to provide defence in times of danger. This is illustrated during a journey to Asgard, where he was defeated in combat by a serving maid.[10]

Later, Warlock explains to Doug that they can perform a "self-merge" in which they merge the substance of their bodies to create a being with Doug's form but Warlock's techno-organic surface texture. This allows them full access to both their powers, but runs a severe risk of irreversibly infecting Doug with the Transmode virus and turning him into a techno-organic being like Warlock.[9][11]

Cypher used his abilities to discover a means of saving Lila Cheney's Dyson Sphere homebase from destruction.[7]

Romances and death

Cypher was instrumental in the rescue of Psylocke from Mojo. This involved venturing deep into Braddock's mind and rescuing her psyche from being torn apart by Mojo's servant, Spiral. The shared experience created a deep emotional bond between the two, though their different ages created awkward feelings between them.[9] Later, Doug entered a relationship with teammate Rahne Sinclair, Wolfsbane,[12] which was cut short by his death not long thereafter.[13]

Alongside the other New Mutants, Doug temporarily joined the Hellions. When the Magus attacked, Doug reprogrammed the Magus into an infant state.[14]

After the team rescues a humanoid bird creature named Bird-Brain, Doug is initially jealous of Rahne's affection for him, but after Doug manages to understand and translate the creature's language,[15] he and Rahne bond with Bird-Brain.[16] When Bird-Brain sets out to free the other mutants who are enslaved by a geneticist working for Cameron Hodge named the Ani-Mator, the New Mutants follow him. Though the Ani-Mator is defeated, he fatally shoots Doug, who takes a bullet intended for Rahne.[13]

Magneto, leader of the New Mutants at the time, explains Doug's death to his parents as a 'hunting accident'. A grief-stricken Warlock tries to steal Doug's body in a confused attempt to reanimate it, but his teammates convince him to return the body. Doug's ghost later appeared to Wolfsbane when she visits his grave in the cemetery.[17]


Warlock is subsequently murdered by Cameron Hodge during the "X-Tinction Agenda" storyline,[18] and his ashes are scattered on Doug's grave at the request of Wolfsbane.[19] Later the alien Phalanx, a corrupt subset of the more powerful alien race known as the Technarchy (Warlock's native race), resurrects Warlock with Doug's memories and appearance, intending to use him as a "Trojan horse" to infiltrate the X-Men.[volume & issue needed] This gestalt entity, called Douglock, breaks free of the Phalanx's programming, and joins Excalibur for a time.[volume & issue needed] Unaware of his real identity as Warlock, "Douglock" believes himself to be a new entity based on the "genetic and mental engrams" of Cypher and Warlock. This new entity had another relationship with Wolfsbane.[volume & issue needed] He became a valued part of Excalibur, and a mentor to Meggan, who needed further basic schooling.[volume & issue needed]

After Excalibur disbanded, Warlock's personality resurfaces, but now exhibits more human speech patterns and appearance. Warlock maintains a copy of Doug's memory, but his personality is not active.[volume & issue needed]

Necrosha and resurrection

Cypher is resurrected via the Transmode Virus by Selene and Eli Bard.[20] After Selene tasks him to kill Magma,[21] he clubs Magma. He is confronted by his teammates, during which he displays a new ability to read body language and anticipate actions, but is dispatched by his teammates. Warlock attempts to restore Cypher's true personality, but is infected by a trojan programming code that incapacitates him, after which Cypher decapitates him.[22] Cypher is then kidnapped by the Hellions, who wish to reprogram him,[23] but is rescued by his teammates, who sever his connection to Selene.[24]

"Second Coming"

In the 2010 "Second Coming" storyline, Doug analyzes a fight between the New Mutants and Cameron Hodge and concludes the New Mutants would be killed. He therefore convinces Warlock to kill and absorb Hodge and several of his men.[25] Later, Doug joins X-Force on a time-travelling mission to stop an invasion of advanced Sentinels from the future.[26] Cable and Cypher infiltrate a Master Mold installation and attempt to hack into the grid, but the Master Mold discovers Cypher and tries to assimilate him in order to add his linguistic skills to its own. However, in doing so, it allows Cypher access to its programming. He subsequently overrides the Master Mold and deactivates all the Nimrods invading Utopia.[27]

All-New X-Factor

As of 2014, Cypher is in All-New X-Factor, along with Gambit, Polaris, Danger, Quicksilver, and Warlock. He nearly dried up trying to touch a girl.[volume & issue needed]

Powers and abilities

Cypher is a mutant who possesses a superhuman intuitive facility for translating languages, spoken or written, human or alien in origin. His superhuman skill is extended to his great facility in deciphering codes and computer languages, and he is also able to read inflection and body language which allows him to understand the vast subtext of a conversation. Rather than working the problem out step by step in his conscious mind, he instead subconsciously solves the problem. Hence, he can reach the correct solution by means that appear to be leaps of logic, and he himself may not be consciously aware of the entire process by which he reaches the right answer.[volume & issue needed]

Since his resurrection by Selene's use of a modified techno-organic virus, Cypher's powers have evolved to the point where he can read all aspects of "language." He is able to read his opponents' body language and the patterns of their combat moves in order to counter the attacks of several opponents attacking him at once. By considering the exercise of combat skills to be a form of language, he proved a match for the entire New Mutant team.[22] He is able to "read" architectural structure and integrity in order to ascertain a building's weaknesses.[21] He also appears capable of "speaking" binary; giving verbal commands in machine code that can deactivate electronic devices.[volume & issue needed]

Cypher is an expert in translating and designing computer software. He took university level courses in languages and computer science. He can hack some of the most protected computers.[volume & issue needed]

Cypher has been infected by techno-organic viruses on multiple occasions.[volume & issue needed] The presence of the virus has allowed him at times to cheat death and to demonstrate techno-organic shapeshifting, transmode infection, and life-absorption abilities.[volume & issue needed]

Cypher was taught by an imprisoned Magik how to cast a mystical teleportation spell which allows him to transport himself and others to either Hell.[volume & issue needed]

Other versions

Age of Apocalypse

In the alternate world of the Age of Apocalypse crossover, Doug Ramsey is the adopted son of Destiny and lives in Avalon. His "translation field" allows everyone in Avalon to understand each other, no matter what language they speak (This is a much broader power than he had ever displayed in the main timeline at this time). He is killed when he jumps in front of Destiny to protect her from the Shadow King's last desperate attack, a course of action that convinces his adoptive mother to become involved in defeating Apocalypse.[28]

Age of X

In the "Age of X" reality, Douglas Ramsey was captured fairly easily and kept in a limited security prison on the Pacific Coast. Around this same time, Doug's father agreed to undergo voluntary sterilization as an X-Gene carrier, but his mother committed suicide a year later. Despite being pegged as a low risk, Doug was able to escape by subverting one of the guards, Eileen Haloke. She was part-Navajo, and Ramsey forged some sort of emotional bond with her by speaking to her in the Navajo tongue. She freed him from his cell and then accompanied him when he escaped from the compound. She was sighted with him on numerous occasions thereafter.[volume & issue needed]

Haloke was not with Ramsey in the Finger Lakes area of New York State a year later when he was at ground zero for a meteor strike. First forces arriving on the scene found Ramsey apparently infected by some sort of carbon/silicon alien matter. This alien matter was able to replicate in a quasi-viral manner, and it spread through Ramsey's whole system in the space of minutes.[29]

The units on site were waiting for the arrival of Hazmat teams so that they could apprehend Ramsey without risk of infection, but they suffered simultaneous failure of all electronic systems. Survivors of the incident reported seeing Ramsey "speaking in tongues". Moments after Ramsey began speaking in an indecipherable, the Exonim units turned on each other, discharging all their weapons in a three-second exchange of fire which caused a forty-meter wide crater.[volume & issue needed]

Ramsey survived the ordeal seemingly unharmed. He later joined Magneto's forces in Fortress X.[30]

Days of Future Present

In the "Days of Future Present" annual crossover, which showed aspects of the alternate future known as Days of Future Past, a new incarnation of the New Mutants was seen, whose membership included Doug Ramsey. This revived version of Doug was human looking on his right side, but his left side was techno-organic and constantly shifted into battle configurations with weapons bristling all over. Aggressive and violent, he was described as being nigh insane when angered. He also only responded to the name "Magus", seemingly confirming Warlock's fears that if infected by the transmode virus after merging into Douglock one time too many, Doug might take on the warlike aspects of the Technarch species.[17]


The reality-hopping Exiles once visited a world where Doug Ramsey was infected by the Legacy Virus. Trying to save Ramsey's life, Warlock bonded with him, combining their life forces into one. Once the virus was introduced to Warlock's unique physiology, it mutated and became even more contagious. With over half the world infected by this new technological virus (called Vi-Locks), Doug Ramsey was kept in stasis. He was killed by one of the infected, once it found out the Exiles were trying to create a cure based on Ramsey's original strain of the virus.[31]


In Peter David's one-shot graphic novel Rahne of Terra there exists a sword and sorcery version of the New Mutants and X-Men, with the likes of Sam "Cannonball" Guthrie being a knight who uses seven league boots to fly (and a rifle called "Cannonball" as a weapon). Here, Rain (an alt-version of Rahne "Wolfsbane" Sinclair) is the Princess of the realm of Geshem, and Doug is a commoner, a nobody whose mother is a washerwoman. However, he loves Rahne from afar, and it is partly through his unexpected courage and a magic spell that the mainstream Rahne Sinclair, who has replaced Rain, survives. The thought of Doug being killed again is enough to trigger her use of the magic of Geshem and her mutant powers to protect him. The story ends with Rain now restored to her own world, and noticing Doug for the first time, clearly being attracted to him.[32]

In the sequel one-shot graphic novel, "Knight of Terra", Rahne pays a return visit to Geshem, and discovers that in that world, Doug and Rain are now married and expecting their first child. However, after an attack by a sorcerer who used animated suits of armor, Doug was injured and had been healed by replacing at least one of his arms with some of the magically animated armor, a reference to Douglock, the part-Phalanx being who was a member of Excalibur.[33]

House of M

Ramsey appears alive and well and older in the Scarlet Witch's reality warp known as the House of M. He was a staff member alongside Karma and Sean Garrison at the New Mutant Leadership Institute who were training young mutants.[34] Both he and Karma discover Garrison and his daughter Wallflower's secret affiliations with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Emperor Sunfire. Garrison corners them and subdues Doug and Karma with fear pheromones and plans to kill them until Tag stops him with his powers and unintentionally causes him to commit suicide.[35]

Marvel Zombies

Cypher appears as a non-combatant zombie in Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth issue #9. He is lured by zombie Deadpool into a lab to be tested on for a cure of the Zombie virus.


During the Shattershot Annual crossover, an alternate future is shown, where Warlock renamed himself Cyberlock. He retained all his memories but had a very serious, emotionless personality. He was part of an X-Force team that helped Shatterstar back to his home dimension and then helped him become a sort of benevolent dictator, replacing Mojo V as Cable wished. To this end, a new X-Force team, consisting of Cannonball, Siryn, Warlock, Darkchild (Illyana Rasputin), Sunspot, and Powerpax (Francine Power) returned to Shatterstar's dimension. Assisted by the spineless ones and the geneticist, Arize, they overthrow Shatterstar, who had begun doing what Mojos I through V had done, creating a world based on the entertainment of killing the opposite race. Shatterstar, who had been having doubts concerning his leadership, joined in the overthrowing of his own dimension, and, apparently, joined the bipeds and spineless ones in peace. X-Force apparently returned to Earth.[36]

Ultimate Cypher

In the Ultimate Marvel imprint, Doug Ramsey is a super-intelligent, slightly geeky but amicable computer programmer who gains national prominence by winning 74 consecutive games on the TV game show Jeopardy.[37] He is not a mutant, but is a student at Emma Frost's Academy of Tomorrow, which does not distinguish between different varieties of "gifted".[38]

Douglas is instrumental in helping free Lorna Dane from prison. Traffic camera footage of Dane's apparent magnetically induced murder of several people had been reviewed time and again to no avail. Doug decides to review the tapes from three days ago and gains the information to clear Lorna's name.[39] He also appears in a short story in the back of Ultimate X-Men #75.

He, along with the rest of the Academy of Tomorrow, is killed by Maddrox during the "Ultimatum" storyline.[40]

What If?

In an issue that asks "What If the X-Men Had Stayed in Asgard," Cypher devoted himself to studying long-forgotten texts and lore, written in languages forgotten to the Asgardians, gaining respect as a scholar amongst the population for doing so. He later became Storm's vizier after she is crowned Queen of Asgard, helping bring a new renaissance to Asgard by using the forgotten wisdom of Asgard's past that he had translated to shape its future.[41]


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  41. ^ What If? Vol. 2 #12 April 1990. Marvel Comics.

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