Who Is Multiple Man, the Superhero James Franco Might Be Playing?

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Jamie Madrox, a.k.a. Multiple Man, getting into some trouble. Photo: Marvel

It’s superhero-movie rumor time again, folks! Deadline has reported that Fox is developing a movie about Marvel Comics character Jamie Madrox, a.k.a. Multiple Man. James Franco is attached as the star, Wonder Woman scribe Allan Heinberg has been tapped to write the script, and X-Men franchise producer Simon Kinberg is apparently producing. But if you’re wondering who the hell Multiple Man is, don’t worry — he’s not that famous.

What’s his basic deal?
He’s a superhero whose mutant power is that he can create copies of himself.

How does that work?
He can do it whenever he takes in kinetic energy, so he usually stomps his foot or snaps his fingers or otherwise absorbs some kind of impact. Then, voilà, there’s more than one of him. He has a limit to the number of copies — or “dupes,” as he calls them — that he can create, but that limit has been moved around arbitrarily by writers over the years. After he’s done with whatever he’s doing, he can absorb the copy back into himself. Each dupe has its own mind and thoughts, but they’re usually pretty chill with being reabsorbed.

That seems … sort of weak, as far as superpowers go. How can he use that power for battle purposes?
Aw, c’mon, he can create a whole battle squad of himself! But yeah, he does have to get inventive, since he can’t, like, shoot lasers out of his eyes. And it makes for good drama because the splintering of his identity can often strain his mental health.

If he’s Marvel, that means he hangs out with the Avengers, right?
No, but it’s totally okay to be confused. Characters from Marvel Comics don’t always appear in Marvel Studios movies. Film rights to the Avengers are held by Disney-owned Marvel Studios, but Multiple Man is a character who originated in X-Men comics, and film rights to all X-Men characters are held by Fox.

So he’s an X-Man?
Yes and no. He was briefly a member of the actual team called the X-Men, but for the most part, he’s been associated with an X-Men spinoff group called X-Factor. It, like the X-Men, usually consists of do-gooder mutants, but X-Factor has often done odd jobs like serving as superpowered private investigators or official government agents.

Would this movie be set in the same universe as the other X-Men movies?
Maybe, maybe not. Fox has made a point of playing fast and loose with the whole shared-universe thing recently. For example, although Logan had Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart returning to their roles from the X-Men franchise, the movie basically had nothing to do with them, plot-wise. Noah Hawley’s FX show Legion uses a couple of X-Men comics characters but takes place in its own little world. Matt Nix’s Fox series The Gifted mentions the X-Men in the past tense, but we never see them. It’s entirely possible that this theoretical Multiple Man movie would be a tub on its own bottom, as they say.

Has this guy been around a while?
Yup. He was created by legendary comics creators Len Wein, Chris Claremont, and John Buscema in 1974 and has been duping around ever since. He’s perhaps best known for being the muse of loooooongtime X-Factor writer Peter David. He’s never been an A-lister, but he’s a solid, fan-favorite resident of the B-list.

Was he in any of the X-Men movies?
He was! He’s an ally of Magneto in X-Men: The Last Stand, where he was played by Grey’s Anatomy vet Eric Dane. But he was a pretty minor part of that flick.

What’s he like as a person? What’s his vibe?
He’s a quippy jokester, but also a bit of a tortured soul who covers up his internal difficulties with humor. Largely thanks to David, he’s matured and developed a lot more than most characters do over the years, and he’s now a charismatic and responsible member of the superhero community, albeit one who still trips over his own insecurities and defense mechanisms at times.

Would James Franco be a good pick to play him?
Yes, actually! Franco’s always been good at finding the balance between goofs and pathos.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to him in comics?
That would probably be the time that he got someone pregnant, only to hold the newborn child and find out it was fathered by a dupe, thus meaning the kid was absorbed back into his body and disappeared.

Gross.
Comics, everybody!

Was there a clever bit of wordplay involving his name in the classic 1995 crossover event Age of Apocalypse?
Whoa, actually, yeah! Throughout Age of Apocalypse, a mysterious order of cult members called the Madri kept popping up, and at the end, it was revealed that they were all a bunch of Multiple Men. Get it? Madrox? Madri? What, you didn’t pay attention to lessons about plurals while you were getting your Classics degree?

Who Is Multiple Man, the Hero James Franco Might Be Playing?