Wednesday

OMW: Ursula Lensky

Another in my series of portraits of the OMW (Obscure Marvel Women), those nearly-forgotten femmes fatales of the OMU (Original Marvel Universe), presenting the tale of a bloodsucking fiend done in by her own dark obsessions.



Ursula Lensky was born during the Second World War on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to an extremely wealthy family. She lived a life of indulgence and luxury, which caused her to struggle against an all-pervading sense of boredom. As a result, she lived for the brief excitement that came from throwing herself into each new fad that came along. However, in her early teen years, she discovered what would become her life’s passion: the legend of Dracula, Lord of the Vampires.

In the early 1950s, Ursula went to see the new film Count Dracula starring Louis Belski. She became immediately fascinated with the suave, sexy, and dangerous title character, and continued to talk about the film long after her friends had moved on to other things. She soon picked up the Bram Stoker novel Dracula and fell in love with it. As she got older, Ursula’s fixation on Dracula only grew, much to her parents’ dismay.

Upon becoming an adult, Ursula bought a house in an exclusive neighborhood on Riverside Drive, overlooking the Hudson River. She had the interior decorated with a spooky bat motif that expressed her obsession with vampires. And though her penchant for wearing sexy black leather outfits caught the eye of numerous suitors, Ursula never married, for she could find no man who excited her as much as the Count Dracula of her fantasies.

Ursula loyally followed Louis Belski’s career as it slid into increasingly schlocky movies produced by Mallet Studios. His last film, The Fangs of Dracula, released in late 1966 after the actor’s death, was the worst ever, but Ursula went to see it anyway. She also built an impressive library of books about vampires and vampirism, ranging from scholarly works such as Elements on Vampirism: An Essay on the Life of the Undead to ridiculous tripe like Harold H. Harold’s A Count of Death.

All through the 1960s, Ursula had a subscription to the magazine True Vampire Stories. In February 1969, she especially enjoyed the cover story “I Loved a Vampire” by Aurora Rabinowitz, which purported to be a Boston woman’s account of her relationship with Dracula. The following summer saw two books published that also claimed to be eyewitness accounts of the Lord of the Undead, The Vampire Conspiracy by Harold H. Harold and The Night- Staker by Paul Butterworth. Ursula devoured both tales hungrily. Then, in October, she attended several performances of the new play The Passion of Dracula at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village.

Ursula’s most secret fervent wish was that the tales of Dracula were true, and she often fantasized about the Count seducing her. Thus, in March 1970, Ursula was saddened to read that much of the real Castle Dracula in Transylvania had been destroyed in a mysterious explosion. She went into a profound depression that was suddenly alleviated a few months later when she came across reports that the castle had been largely rebuilt. Few details of either incident were available, which only fed her imagination.

In the spring of 1971, the movie version of The Vampire Conspiracy premiered. To Ursula’s delight, Dracula subsequently became all the rage among her jaded coterie of chic jetsetters. As it had suddenly become stylish, she gave her obsession free rein, and was thrilled when she learned that an auction was to be held soon for items from Castle Dracula, many of which dated from the time of the infamous Vlad Ţepeş himself.

Thus, come June, Ursula donned her most sensuous black leather ensemble and made her way to the Rizzoli Auction Gallery a mere three miles from her house. She spared no expense and managed to get the bulk of the lots for herself. Before leaving, she arranged with the proprietor, Anton Rizzoli, to pick up the items herself the next night, not trusting Rizzoli to safely deliver the valuable antiques. Satisfied, she returned home and got ready for bed, slipping into a short, filmy nightgown. Suddenly, she saw an enormous bat scratching at her bedroom window. With devilish glee, she opened the window and let the creature in. To her surprise, it metamorphosed into a man—Count Dracula himself.

Looking deep into his blood-red eyes, Ursula accepted that he was indeed the legendary Dracula, and that her lifelong dream had become reality. She yielded to his clammy touch and felt his fetid breath on her flesh as he pressed her to the floor and slid on top of her. Then, as his fangs sank deep into her flesh, she was overcome with sexual ecstasy. Her mind finally cleared several minutes later, and at Dracula’s command she rose to her feet, a pool of blood coagulating in the thickly-piled carpet. She felt at once that she had grown fangs, and believed herself to have become a vampire.

Following her new master’s directions, Ursula dressed in her leather outfit again and returned to Rizzoli’s gallery. The heavy-set antiquarian allowed her inside, sweating profusely as she flirted with him. Then, she locked his gaze with her hypnotic eyes and attacked him, biting his neck and drinking his blood. Ursula reveled in the bloodlust that swept through her as she gulped and slurped the hot sticky fluid, and she found the experience incredibly erotic.

Suddenly, however, several New York City policemen broke down the door and rushed in, one of whom was brandishing a crucifix. Ursula recoiled from the holy symbol, hissing and spitting as the men tackled her and held her spread-eagled on the floor. Quickly, one of the officers placed a wooden stake over her heart and struck it with a large mallet, driving it deep into her chest. Ursula was killed instantly.


First and Final Appearance: Dracula Lives! #9


Notes:

Sadly, Ursula Lensky had not become a true vampire, and might even have been saved by an experienced vampire hunter. The truth is, Dracula did not drink enough of her blood to kill her, as he did not want to have to wait three days to use her to extract his revenge upon Rizzoli (for looting Castle Dracula). Instead, he ingested only enough to cause her to immediately take on certain vampiric traits. Dracula used this technique from time to time, most notably on Storm of the X-Men during his first encounter with the mutant heroes. Of course, Dracula could have completed Ursula’s transformation subsequently if NYPD patrolman Lou Garver had not been hot on her trail. A novice vampire slayer, Garver could not have suspected that cutting off Ursula’s head, stuffing it with garlic, and setting her corpse on fire was thus completely unnecessary.




Thursday

OMW: Domini

To continue my series of portraits of the OMW (Obscure Marvel Women), those fascinating, enigmatic, and sexy female characters who are little remembered today, I delved into the more terrifying corners of the OMU (Original Marvel Universe).



The woman known only as Domini was born circa 1950 in the Greater Boston metropolitan area. At a young age, Domini lost her mother. Her father, believing himself incapable of raising his daughter alone, sent Domini to a convent school, where she was brought up by the stern nun Sister Mary-Theresa. Domini was an intelligent and precocious child, and she frequently challenged the theology of her teachers, although she never doubted the reality of God and Satan. As Domini grew older, she became increasingly rebellious and began running away from the convent when she found life there too stressful. However, each time she would flee, her father would track her down and return her to the nuns’ care. As a result, she eventually came to hate him.

Domini grew up feeling lonely, isolated, and unloved. She had no friends at the convent school, and lived mainly in the world of her dreams. As a teenager, she began to look for a man who could take her away from her miserable life, and ultimately she met Anton Lupeski, the leader of Boston’s largest satanic cult. Lupeski was entranced by Domini’s great beauty and promised to liberate her from the Roman Catholic Church, manipulating her emotions and painting a rosy picture of Satanism. Finally, in early 1968, Domini decided to forsake the Church and join Lupeski’s cult.

When Lupeski brought Domini to his demonic church in Cambridge, Massachusetts to introduce her to the members of his cult, she began to have second thoughts. However, it was too late, and Lupeski easily overcame her half-hearted resistance and offered her to the men of the cult, who all wore hooded robes and gruesome masks. That night, and in the nights to follow, Domini was raped and degraded and forced to engage in the cult’s blood rituals, and though it sickened her, she felt herself trapped once again. The cultists treated her like a slave, forced her to serve their every whim, beat her, spat upon her, and mocked her. Domini’s spirit was soon crushed, and she retreated into a state that left her little better than a mindless zombie.

One year later, in February 1969, Lupeski told Domini that she had been chosen to be offered up as a Bride of Satan, and was to be physically transported to Hell through a ceremony of black magic. Domini immediately saw it as an opportunity to regain some of her lost dignity, believing that being Satan’s wife in Hell would be preferable to being treated as mere property by the sadistic cult members. Thus, on the night of the ritual, Domini was stripped naked and chained to an inverted cross, which was suspended over the altar of Lupeski’s church. The air hung heavy with incense and a ceremonial brazier smoldered just below her as the cultists entered, carrying torches and chanting. Domini’s body was anointed with oils that would be ignited in order to open a portal to Hell. Lupeski, pouring more oil down her helpless form, claimed that her flesh would be magically protected from the flames, and Domini gave her consent freely, not caring anymore if she lived or died. Then Lupeski used his torch to ignite a reservoir of oil in a pentagram carved into the stone floor beneath his victim. The flames blazed up and consumed Domini, but she did not feel any pain. The chanting reached a fever pitch as the cultists attempted to conjure up their demonic master.

Suddenly, Domini found herself sitting upon the cold floor, the flames extinguished. Though in a bit of a daze, she saw a fearsome-looking man in a black cape speaking with Lupeski, who urged the stranger to take her as his wife, and so she assumed this must be Satan himself. The stranger accepted Lupeski’s offer, seemingly on a whim, and upon learning that her name was Domini, he delighted in the irony, as it meant “Belonging to God.” Then, with her face cradled in the stranger’s ice-cold fingers, Domini vowed to serve him. The stranger then identified himself as “Dracula,” shouted out a mocking challenge to God in Heaven, and announced he would return in three days to marry her. He vanished in a puff of smoke, and the cultists went wild with religious fervor. Domini knew she was on the verge of meeting her destiny.

Three days later, Domini was prepared for her wedding, dressed in an ash-gray gown with a black veil over her face and given a bouquet of roses to hold. The cult members took her to a run-down deconsecrated church in the city of Boston, where an inverted cross hung over the altar. Domini was immediately struck by the sight of a massive oil painting of Jesus Christ hanging incongruously upon the wall, which seemed to emanate some subtle mystical power. Dracula met them there, took his place at Domini’s side, and commanded Lupeski to begin the ceremony. After a lengthy oratory, Lupeski took a knife and made a single cut into one wrist of the bride and the groom, placing the wounds together so that their blood might intermingle, thus joining them together as one flesh. Dracula then removed the veil covering Domini’s face, kissed her, and announced his intention to build the cult into a worldwide religious movement, and that he would even sire a son, to be born on Christmas Day, who would one day do battle with Jesus Christ himself. Domini offered that she would be proud and humble to give birth to the Devil’s child. Dracula then transformed into a man-sized bat and carried Domini off to their “honeymoon in Hell.”

However, Domini’s new husband did not take her to Hell, but rather to a mansion in Boston’s exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood, where he confirmed her suspicions that he was not Satan at all, but the legendary Dracula, Lord of the Vampires. Rather than drinking her blood, though, he professed that she stirred powerful emotions in him, which he had not felt in centuries. Over the next several weeks, Domini set up house in Dracula’s mansion, which he had taken over from a defeated enemy. He provided her with fine gowns and glistening jewels, for he seemed to have access to unlimited wealth. Dracula gradually opened up to her, telling her of his centuries-long existence, revealing details of his life before he became a vampire, and confiding in her his reasons for posing as Satan before Lupeski’s cult, and of his desire to use them in a scheme to dominate the world. For her part, Domini claimed she desired nothing but his love, for she secretly felt she had finally found the man who would give her the life of which she had long dreamed.

On March 20, 1969, the day of the vernal equinox, Lupeski’s cult convened once again at Dracula’s church in Boston for the sex-magic ritual that would impregnate Domini with the child of “Satan.” She and Dracula met upon the altar, both naked, as Lupeski led the cultists in their chant. Then, Dracula and Domini had sexual intercourse as the cultists weaved their dark spells, and, overcome by the experience, Domini gave a blood-curdling scream and passed out. When she regained consciousness, she found the church engulfed in chaos; several of the cult members lay dead, killed with a shotgun, and their murderer, disguised in the cult’s own robes, was writhing helplessly in Dracula’s grasp. She instantly recognized him as her father, and realized that he had come for her once again, as he had always done, to take her back to the convent. She tried to stop Dracula from killing him, but Lupeski silenced her until it was too late. Dracula bit the man and drained his blood, even as the man prayed for forgiveness. As her father’s body dropped to the floor, Domini realized that he had loved her, in his own way, and that she loved him as well. In that moment, she forgave him for all the pain he had caused her.

Suddenly, Domini became transfixed by the portrait of Jesus Christ hanging from the wall, overwhelmed by the mystic power emanating from the canvas. In the space of a heartbeat, she received a detailed vision of the future, bestowed upon her by a Benevolent Entity that she naturally took to be the Christian God. At once, she understood that a child had been conceived by the magic ritual, but it was not the Devil’s child, and though Dracula was in some way the father, the child’s soul was innocent and he would grow to fulfill a great destiny. It was also revealed to her that her own father would not rise as a vampire, for he had been granted death a moment before Dracula’s fangs pierced his neck. He had been absolved of his sins, and forgiveness was Domini’s to claim, as well. Lastly, she understood that her infant son would die and be resurrected as an angel, and his mission would be to oppose Dracula’s evil. As the vision faded, Domini felt a peace and serenity that she had never known before; it had been a deeply moving religious experience.

She returned home with Dracula and came to accept the truth of the vision she had received. Sure enough, she soon found herself to be pregnant. She lived comfortably in the mansion, enjoying the opulent lifestyle that her husband provided for her. Understanding the great destiny that awaited them, she came to terms with Dracula’s nightly hunting for blood. Over the summer, she remained at Dracula’s side as he went about his duties as Lord of the Vampires and also as the “Dark Lord” of Lupeski’s cult. During this time, she discovered an inner strength and self-confidence that arose from her knowledge of the future, and her pregnancy proceeded without complications.

In October 1969, when Domini was seven months pregnant, Dracula was attacked by the powerful alien known as the Silver Surfer, but it was Domini who ended the battle. The Surfer looked deep into her eyes and saw something that filled him with hope for the future, and he accepted her intercession. The Silver Surfer then flew off, leaving Dracula merely confused.

Soon after this incident, Domini attended a gala fundraiser for Dracula’s “new religion,” attended by Boston’s wealthy elite. Domini sat upon an ornate throne while Dracula demonstrated his supernatural powers and urged his guests to join his cause. She was concerned by Dracula’s erratic behavior when he seemed to sense some phantom presence in the room, but she quickly realized it was all part of the Benevolent Entity’s grand design. When the party was then disrupted by two brawling vampires and Dracula was drawn into the fray, Lupeski escorted Domini into a back room for her protection. There the cult leader took the opportunity to offer his former slave a deal. He revealed that he knew Dracula was not Satan, and that he had decided to do away with the vampire. If Domini did not stand in his way, he offered, she would be allowed to live out her life in total luxury as the mother of the cult’s messiah. Domini refused to help him, but promised not to reveal his treachery to her husband, preferring to deal with him in her own way.

Later that night, Domini returned to the deconsecrated church, where she encountered a golden-skinned man with blazing red eyes, and she realized that he was an angel sent by the Benevolent Entity. Furthermore, when the angel gazed into her eyes, she understood that he was also her son – what her son would become. He vanished then, and moments later, Dracula burst into the church in pursuit of him, but Domini denied having seen anyone. Dracula then sensed the mystic energies radiating from the oil painting and howled in rage. Domini sought to comfort her husband, and they decided to largely retreat from the world until the baby’s birth. In the weeks to follow, Domini spent more and more time in bed as she approached her term.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, 1969, Domini went into labor. She convinced Dracula that their son should be born in the church where he was conceived, rather than in their mansion. Against his better judgment, Dracula consented, and within the hour, they were back in the dilapidated church, under the ever-watchful eyes of the portrait of Christ. Then, fearing that the vampire hunters who dogged his every step were preparing to strike at him, Dracula moved Domini into an old barn at the rear of the church’s property and set her up in one of the stables. As midnight approached, Lupeski arrived with a wheelchair, and then did his best to help Domini when she started pushing. She was so focused on giving birth that she scarcely noticed when a quartet of vampire hunters burst in and battled with her husband. But then, just after the stroke of twelve, Domini gave birth to a boy. The vampire hunters felt stunned and conflicted at this turn of events, and when Domini asked Dracula to take her home, they could not bring themselves to continue the fight. Returning to their mansion, Domini and Dracula gazed at their newborn baby, marveling at his golden skin and fiery red eyes.

A month later, as Dracula and Lupeski planned a christening ceremony that would introduce the infant to the members of the cult, Domini realized the two men had conflicting schemes for power, both centered on the child. But she knew that her son had a far greater destiny, and her faith in the future she had seen never wavered. Then, at the ceremony, Lupeski presented the baby to his followers as the new master of the universe, a dual-natured hybrid between Hell and Earth, and thus declared that his name would be Janus, after the Roman god of beginnings and endings, and in recognition of the current month, January, being the first month of their new religion. Dracula, realizing that Lupeski was trying to transfer the focus of the cult’s worship from him to the baby, reasserted his authority and brought the ceremony to an end. Once they had returned home, Domini tried to soothe Dracula’s growing sense of foreboding by reminding him of the hope that his new heir brought to his heart, since his first two offspring had both grown to despise him. She also assured her husband that she loved him with all her heart and soul.

Later that night, after Dracula had gone out in search of blood, one of his vampire servants appeared in their home and informed Domini that Anton Lupeski and others were planning to slay Dracula, and were forging silver bullets for that purpose. She promised to inform her husband upon his return, but instead she bundled up herself and Janus and set off into a raging blizzard to confront Lupeski at his home. When she threatened to reveal his plot to Dracula, Lupeski countered that he could manufacture evidence that would implicate her as well, and they reached a stalemate. Lupeski was dismissive of Domini, and ordered two of his followers to take the mother and child back home. Domini knew the wheels of fate were now in motion, and she was powerless to stop what was coming.

Weeks later, in February 1970, the cult’s inner circle of thirteen members convened to hold a midnight feast to honor Janus. Domini, wearing an ornate gown and jeweled mitre, arrived with her husband and son, and they took their seats at the center of the banquet table. Lupeski offered a toast to their new messiah, and then led the cultists in a chant, which rose from a murmur to a thunderous roar. At the height of the ritual, the church was suddenly invaded by the vampire hunters, now heavily armed. Lupeski produced a rifle from under the table and opened fire on Dracula. The cult members dove for cover as Dracula’s five assailants unleashed a hail of silver bullets, but Domini refused to leave her husband’s side. Then, in one terrible moment, Lupeski fired his weapon at Dracula, who turned his body into mist so the bullets might pass harmlessly through him, not realizing that he was standing in front of the baby’s bassinet. The bullets struck Janus and killed him instantly. As Domini cradled the dead infant, the vampire hunters were shocked, and Lupeski stood horrified at what he had done. Dracula flew into a berserker rage and attacked the cult leader, finally crushing Anton Lupeski’s skull with his bare hands.

Utterly horrified by the gruesome scene, Domini lashed out at the painting of Christ on the wall, venting her grief and thus revealing her true allegiance. Nevertheless, Dracula acceded to her demand to let the disheartened vampire hunters leave in peace. Once they were alone, however, the bereaved parents argued. Domini begged Dracula to embrace her and to accept the wisdom and power of Jesus Christ. Dracula, feeling betrayed, rejected her plea, transformed into a bat, and flew away. Less than an hour later, he returned to the church to vent his own grief by wrecking everything in sight. Domini fled from his violent rage before he turned on her as well. Soon after, a torrential thunderstorm ravaged the city with howling winds and relentless lightning strikes. Then, as suddenly as it began, the storm ended. Domini wept.

When morning came, Domini arranged for her son’s burial, which was carried out without delay. A simple small headstone bearing his name was erected in a lonely cemetery. On the first two nights following Janus’ death, Domini laid flowers on his grave, preparing herself for the task that lay ahead of her: bringing her son back to life. On the third night, she returned to weave the spell of resurrection. As Domini summoned forth powerful mystical forces, the freshly-dug grave erupted and the small coffin rose from the earth. Then the coffin itself exploded, leaving Janus’ corpse levitating in the cold night air. Suddenly, the sky seemed to shatter, and a mysterious maelstrom engulfed the cemetery. From out of the flashes of lightning emerged the golden angel Domini had encountered months before, and he descended from the sky to merge with the infant as life miraculously returned to his tiny body. Despite the hurricane force winds, Dracula arrived to stop what was happening, but a bolt of lighting sent him crashing to the ground. With a sudden release of energy, the two golden-skinned beings became one, and the infant’s body rapidly aged to the prime of adulthood. Domini called to this new Janus and begged him to love his father no matter what. Janus acknowledged her, but, to Dracula’s horror, proclaimed his mission to destroy his father. The golden angel then pursued Dracula into the night sky, leaving Domini exhausted and alone.

For the next two days, Domini anguished over the conflict to come, and she was heartbroken that Dracula had refused to come home since the night Janus was killed. Worse, she knew the agonizing ordeal that lay ahead for her husband. When the angelic Janus appeared at his mother’s home to speak with her, he only reminded her of their destiny and then departed once again in his relentless pursuit of Dracula. Hours later, Domini felt herself mysteriously drawn to a decaying mansion atop Satan’s Hill outside Boston, a house that emanated an aura of pure hellish evil. At the door, she found the vampire hunter Rachel van Helsing, who had been unable to gain entrance. The door yielded to Domini, though, as she knew it would, just as she knew that within, Dracula had finally fallen into the clutches of the one true Satan. Unfortunately, as the two women entered the house, it was suddenly consumed by fire, and, finding Rachel’s partner Frank Drake and a girl called Topaz inside, they all headed back out to escape the inferno. Along the way, however, Domini saw Topaz turn and go back into the flames. Once they were outside, a fierce rainstorm erupted, which extinguished the burning building. Domini then saw Janus fly out of the smoldering ruin in the form of a golden eagle, but there was no sign of Dracula. Glad for some human company, Domini accompanied Rachel and Frank to the apartment of their mentor, Quincy Harker, where she made them realize how their war against vampires had destroyed all the love in their hearts, and that even Dracula deserved a measure of compassion. She was saddened by her mystic foreknowledge of what Satan planned for Dracula, which was to return the vampire lord to human form until he had been thoroughly humiliated.

Some days later, at home in the mansion, Domini received a telephone call from Dracula, who was still in human form. He sounded haggard and depressed, and would not reveal his whereabouts. The conversation was as strained as it was brief. After hanging up, Domini watched the snow falling outside the window and prayed for her husband, aware on some level that she would never hear from him again. Weeks passed, and as February gave way to March, Domini’s loneliness increased. She tried one last time to talk Janus out of killing Dracula, but he merely reminded her that their fates had been predetermined long ago. Domini’s faith in the Benevolent Entity faltered for the first time, and with a sinking heart she suggested that even a god may be wrong. She just wanted her husband back.

However, after only a few more days, Domini could sense that Dracula had been destroyed. Feeling utterly alone in the world, she reflected on the events of the last two years, and how much she had gained and lost. Then, Janus appeared at the window, come to tell her of her husband’s fate. Unexpectedly, then, he informed her that the guiding spirit of her infant son was no longer needed, and so he would be returned to her. Trembling, Domini embraced the golden angel, and as his form melted away, she found her baby in her arms once more. He was warm and alive, and, to her joy, his skin was no longer golden, nor were his eyes red. He was a normal human boy.

Soon after, Domini took her baby and left Boston, moving to a place far away where Dracula, should he be resurrected again, would be unlikely to find them. She used the valuable jewelry he had given her to start a new life for herself and her child. Finally, some two years later, Domini learned that all the vampires on Earth had been permanently destroyed by an ancient magic spell. She felt relieved that she could finally put her past behind her, and raise her son to not fear the darkness.


First appearance: Tomb of Dracula # 45

Final appearance: Tomb of Dracula # 70


Notes:

Whether or not the Benevolent Entity is really the Judeo-Christian God, Domini believed this to be the case, and the entity used her belief in God and Jesus Christ for its own ends. It is almost certainly the same entity that enabled Doctor Strange to purge both Wong and himself of the curse of vampirism at the end of Doctor Strange v.2 #14, although it did not actually enable Strange to destroy Dracula, as Strange assumed it had. Doubtlessly, this entity saw that its plans for Dracula were coming to fruition, and did not want Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme interfering in the matter at that time.

Similarly, the “one true Satan” that Dracula encountered was not the Devil of Domini’s religious tradition, but the demon Mephisto passing himself off as “Satan” once again. This fact is made clear in Doctor Strange v.2 #75, which reintroduces Topaz. It should be remembered that Dracula himself was raised in the Christian tradition, and even though he rejected it, it still formed the basis of his cosmology. As he was unaware that vampirism had been created by the Elder God Chthon (a fact the original vampire, Varnæ, neglected to reveal when he made Dracula his successor), Dracula could only assume “Satan” was responsible for the curse of the undead. Mephisto played on Dracula’s ignorance when he sought to torment and humiliate the vampire.

The ancient magic spell that destroyed the vampires was known as the Montesi Formula, and was read from Chthon’s book, the Darkhold, by Doctor Strange himself in Doctor Strange v.2 #62. Although the spell was undone in stories set in subsequent Marvel universes, allowing Dracula and his undead hordes to return, in the Original Marvel Universe, vampires stayed gone. Period.

Likewise, Domini’s brief appearances in 1994 are not part of the Original Marvel Universe.




Friday

OMW: The Catspaw

For today’s Obscure Marvel Woman (OMW) of the Original Marvel Universe (OMU), we have the tragic tale of the Super-Villainess Who Never Was. The unfortunate pawn of a scheming megalomaniac, her untimely demise paved the way for not one, but two future crimefighters. Although she never actually had a code-name, I’ve given her the most fitting one for my own convenience.



Shirlee Bryant was born in Chicago, Illinois around 1940, and from a young age, she was devoted to the cause of physical fitness. As a child, she excelled at gymnastics, and in her teen years she began to explore the martial arts as well, attaining a black belt in judo. She also served as captain of her high school cheerleading squad, where her good looks and smart-ass sense of humor made her very popular. The adults in Shirlee’s life encouraged her in these endeavors, for they realized she was hardly gifted academically. In fact, Shirlee was not terribly bright, and had a somewhat shallow and vacuous personality.

After high school, Shirlee found employment teaching yoga, judo, and other fitness classes at the local YWCA. She was determined to marry into wealth, so even though she had many suitors, she refused to take any romantic relationship very seriously. After a few years, Shirlee caught the eye of the eccentric millionaire and avid sportsman Mal Donalbain, who attended a martial arts exhibition in which she participated. Immediately, Shirlee was offered a job at Donalbain’s upscale fitness club, and she was thrilled when he subsequently gave her a great deal of personal attention. She decided that Donalbain, a former executive of the Brand Corporation, would be a good catch. Within a few months, Shirlee and Donalbain became quite intimate, although she discovered that he had an extreme aversion to physical contact and would not allow her to touch him. Still, their relationship developed a sexual component as he would watch her pleasure herself, often verbally directing her movements. Shirlee accepted this arrangement, deciding that Donalbain’s vast wealth more than made up for his eccentricities.

In the summer of 1964, Mal Donalbain learned of a research project being conducted at the University of Chicago by Dr. Joanne Tumolo, a noted biochemist, that sought a means to scientifically enhance women to their full mental and physical potential. Donalbain, who also suffered from delusions of grandeur, noticed similarities in Tumolo’s work to the legendary Project Super-Soldier of World War II, and, inspired by the recent advent of costumed heroes and villains, believed he could use Tumolo’s research to create an army of superwomen with which he could conquer America. As such, he offered to finance Tumolo’s project, and since the scientist was in need of new funding, she accepted his patronage. Then, without revealing his true motives, Donalbain convinced Shirlee to serve as Tumolo’s test subject, and, excited by the prospect of reaching the ultimate in physical fitness, she agreed.

Thus, at the beginning of the academic year that autumn, Donalbain took Shirlee to meet Dr. Tumolo at her laboratory. However, Dr. Tumolo initially rejected Shirlee as a suitable candidate, based on her flighty personality and limited intellect. However, Donalbain demanded to have his way and threatened to withdraw his funding, so the scientist relented. Shirlee was then introduced to Dr. Tumolo’s lab assistant, Greer Nelson, who walked her through the enhancement process and the equipment they would use.

For the next six months, Shirlee submitted to the project’s various conditioning treatments, chemical and radiological baths, and training regimens, although she often found it tedious and therefore had difficulty concentrating. She soon began to feel annoyed that Dr. Tumolo always seemed less than impressed with her progress. She also suspected that Greer Nelson looked down on her. However, Shirlee felt she had one up on them, as she began using her newly-enhanced memory to enable Mal Donalbain to build an exact duplicate of the project in his own private lab. Meanwhile, Donalbain had contracted the Brand Corporation to build a special costume to his specifications, as well as to develop a will-nullifying collar that would keep his army of superwomen subservient to his wishes. He decided the costume should have a sexy feline theme, and planned to dub Shirlee’s new identity “The Catspaw” as a private joke. As such, he had the engineers at Brand add a “cat’s paw” emblem to the uniform’s chest. When the suit was ready, Donalbain ordered several dozen.

Finally, in April 1965, Dr. Tumolo’s project was completed, and Shirlee reveled in her newfound strength, agility, coordination, memory, and reflexes, all raised to nearly-superhuman levels. Then, meeting with Donalbain and his bodyguards one rainy evening, she was instructed to don the “superhero” costume that her lover provided for her. The shimmering gold catsuit showed off her sleek, muscular form, and the black gloves and boots had claws incorporated into them, as well as a grappling-hook-and-line apparatus. She agreed to wear the outfit’s cat-themed headgear, which artificially enhanced her hearing and night-vision, although she began to feel silly. When she was fully dressed, Donalbain then instructed her to put on a studded collar, which Shirlee assumed was to take the kinky “kitty cat” theme to its logical conclusion. However, she quickly learned the collar actually served a far more sinister purpose, for it rendered her unable to resist Donalbain’s commands, effectively making her his slave.

Laughing, Donalbain declared Shirlee to now be the perfect woman: sexy, subservient, totally obedient, and with the strength and agility to perform any feat he desired. As the first test of her abilities, Donalbain ordered Shirlee to fight his bodyguards. She had no choice but to obey, and using her martial arts skills and enhanced physical abilities, she easily defeated the burly men. Immediately, Donalbain ordered her to use her claws to climb six stories above the floor and then use her grappling hook to swing across the cavernous room. She made the ascent and let fly with her hook-and-line, but, due to the mind-numbing effects of the control collar, Shirlee misjudged her leap and fell to her death.


First and Final Appearance: The Cat # 1