Friday

OMU: Doctor Strange -- Year Four

Following the cancellation of his original series, Marvel’s resident sorcerer Doctor Strange was eventually retrieved from character limbo to serve in a new team-book, The Defenders. It was a lucky escape, as he was not included in the initial conception of the series, and was only drafted as a last-minute replacement. Plans fell through to feature the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner alongside the Silver Surfer when, so the story goes, Stan Lee decided he felt a little too proprietary towards the Surfer and didn’t want the character used on a regular basis by other writers. It was decided that Doctor Strange would make a suitable replacement, and so his “retirement” would have to be undone. Although the comics seem to suggest that Doctor Strange was back in business immediately, plugging the stories into my OMU timeline reveals that it actually took many months before he was truly ready for action again. His retirement and return make up an extended ordeal from which Stephen Strange emerged stronger than ever before, finally ready to take the next step in his mystic career.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


We now continue... The True History of Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts!


January 1965 – Dr. Stephen Strange continues his recently-revived career as a surgical consultant for a Manhattan-based medical group, though his new life is rapidly unraveling. He has retreated into the persona of a hard-drinking, chain-smoking womanizer and has already alienated most of his colleagues. Haunted by horrific nightmares, Strange suffers from acute insomnia, which drives him to leave his high-rise apartment block each night to wander the city’s streets. Late one evening, his aimless rambles take him into Greenwich Village, a neighborhood he usually avoids. Before he realizes it, he finds himself once more on Bleecker Street, standing in the shadow of his former Sanctum Sanctorum. To his surprise, the house is not boarded up, nor does it show any sign of being abandoned. He begins to fear that something happened to Wong that prevented his manservant from carrying out his last instructions. Trying the door, Strange finds it is not even locked, and with trepidation he enters the dimly-illumined foyer. After taking a few steps down one of the corridors, he stumbles upon Wong, who immediately takes his former master to be an impostor. Strange is perplexed, and his confusion only grows when Wong calls out for “Doctor Strange” and an imposing figure emerges from the shadows, wearing the Amulet of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation and disguised in the blue humanoid shape that Strange himself had briefly worn the previous autumn.

Before he can even doubt himself, Strange is attacked by the blue Doctor Strange, and he quickly realizes his foe is trying to kill him without Wong realizing it. However, bereft of any mystical powers, the doctor is easily captured. Utterly helpless, he is unable to resist as a spell renders him insensate. Desperate and in sheer mortal terror, Strange’s subconscious mind reaches out into the void until he once more feels the calm, reassuring presence of his aged mentor, the Ancient One. The Sorcerer Supreme offers to lend Strange his own mystic might to save himself and defeat the impostor, but warns him that to do so, he must accept his true destiny. Choosing life over a living death, Stephen Strange suddenly feels his body charged with magical energies, enabling him to shatter the spell that binds him. Sensing this, the impostor rushes back into the chamber and renews his assault, but is quickly vanquished by Strange’s superior power. Dr. Strange then removes his fallen foe’s blue facemask and discovers he is none other than Baron Mordo. Wong is shocked to learn that he had been duped into serving his master’s greatest enemy for the past few months, but Strange reassures him. Unfortunately, Mordo then recovers enough to escape in a puff of red smoke.

Realizing that the path of the mystic arts is not so easily turned away from, Dr. Strange resigns his position as a medical consultant, settles his accounts, and takes up residence once again in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Under the direction of the Ancient One, he begins a lengthy period of meditation, fasting, and prayer to purge himself of the poisons in his soul. He undergoes a new consecration, followed by days of dedication, as he sets out to reclaim the magical powers he had renounced.

February 1965 – At midnight one night, Doctor Strange receives a psychic summons that draws his astral form to a nearby hospital, where he is astonished to find his former foe Yandroth, the so-called “Scientist Supreme,” whom he had defeated one year ago. However, Yandroth is now an elderly man lying on his deathbed. Yandroth tells Strange of the many decades that have passed for him since their last meeting in the Dream Dimension, and gloats that he has constructed a doomsday machine dubbed the Omegatron, which will destroy the earth once he has died. He then lapses into a coma, and though Strange immediately alerts the attending physicians, Yandroth dies on the operating table.

Learning that Yandroth had been living at Point Promontory, Maine, Doctor Strange returns to his physical form and lets the Cloak of Levitation carry him to New England. En route, however, Strange begins to doubt his ability to deal with such a crisis so soon after returning to sorcery, and so he summons his one-time ally Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and convinces the headstrong monarch of the sea to help him destroy the Omegatron. Namor suggests they also enlist the aid of the Silver Surfer and the Hulk, with whom he recently teamed up to avert a major catastrophe. Though the Silver Surfer proves unavailable, Doctor Strange is able to find the Hulk and easily goads him into following along. The sorcerer is surprised by the Hulk’s ability to see his astral form, which should have been invisible, but has no time for idle curiosity. The unlikely trio soon finds Yandroth’s installation disguised as a lighthouse on Maine’s rocky coast. While Namor and the Hulk batter away at the building’s defenses, Doctor Strange’s astral form is able to penetrate the chamber containing the Omegatron. The computer is possessed of artificial intelligence, and it brags to Strange that it will use the kinetic energy of his friends’ blows to power its doomsday weapon. Strange fails to warn the Hulk and Namor off, for they dismiss him as merely a ploy of the Omegatron’s defensive systems, and so the mage resorts to casting illusions about them to make the pair attack each other. The Omegatron then begins its final ten-second countdown to detonate all the world’s nuclear arsenals. Seeing no other option, Doctor Strange frantically casts a spell that slows down the flow of time in the Omegatron’s immediate vicinity. He knows this is only a stop-gap measure, but it will afford him the opportunity to study the situation further and devise a means of overcoming the peculiar mix of science and sorcery that Yandroth used to create the Omegatron. Outside, Doctor Strange explains to his associates what has happened, and they decide to go their separate ways. However, feeling safer amongst such powerful allies, Strange suddenly proposes they form a permanent team, suggesting they might call themselves “the Defenders.” But neither the Hulk nor the Sub-Mariner is interested, and so they depart, leaving Doctor Strange on his own. Before returning to New York, the disappointed mage casts a spell of illusion to once again disguise Yandroth’s installation as an ordinary lighthouse.

March 1965 – Doctor Strange becomes so engrossed in regaining his mastery over the mystic forces of Agamotto, Hoggoth, and Oshtur that he neglects the problem of the Omegatron until it completely slips his mind. He is further distracted when he finally contacts Clea again, only to be rebuffed. She is still furious over having been abandoned by him and shut out of his life when he needed her most. Though glad that he has come to his senses at last, Clea is not yet ready to forgive him. She reminds him that she has gotten by all these months on her own, and has managed to assimilate somewhat into Earth culture since her long exile from her home dimension has caused all her own mystic powers to fade. Strange is sick at heart, but acknowledges that his behavior toward her was inexcusable. He agrees to give her whatever time she needs to reassess their relationship, and then returns to the Sanctum Sanctorum to bury himself in his studies.

April–September 1965 – For the next six months, Doctor Strange retrains himself in the mystic arts while also finally facing the psychological fallout from his ordeal as a prisoner of the demonic Undying Ones. With the help of the Ancient One, he is at last able to confront his fears and to remember the experience without reliving it. As his mastery of arcane forces returns, his thoughts dwell often on the fate of the mysterious girl who took his place within the poles of ethereal force. He knows that he should attempt to rescue her, but simply cannot deal with the prospect of returning to the Nameless One’s realm. Since she materialized alongside the Hulk, Strange tracks down Bruce Banner to learn more about her, but all Banner can manage to remember is that she was called Barbara. During the summer, Strange realizes that he can no longer lead the life of the reclusive loner as he did previously, for he recognizes his need for the comforts of basic human relationships. As such, he strikes up a casual friendship with one of his neighbors, an American Indian woman named Sara Wolfe. Furthermore, Clea agrees to meet occasionally for dinner, and they begin to slowly rebuild the intimacy they have lost.

October 1965 – Doctor Strange receives a mystic cry for help from the aged master of a hidden temple in Vietnam, who has been brought to New York by his followers after they come to believe he was killed in an American mortar attack. In truth, the venerable mystic had entered a death-like trance to escape the shelling, and now needs help to awaken before his followers exact their revenge on the American soldier they believe is responsible for the tragedy. Determining that Spider-Man has already involved himself and is attempting to rescue the soldier, one Eugene “Flash” Thompson, Doctor Strange draws the web-slinger to his Sanctum Sanctorum to propose an alliance. Upon arriving at the building where Thompson is being held prisoner, Spider-Man brawls with the cult’s strongman, giving Doctor Strange the time he needs to weave the spell to awaken the aged master. The situation thus resolved, Strange bids farewell to Spider-Man and returns home.

A few days later, Doctor Strange receives a visit from a young man named Jim Wilson, a friend of the Hulk, who has come for help regarding his suspicions about a new hit children’s television show called The Astro-Nuts. The program features a large furry creature called Xemnu, who seems to have an eerie hypnotic power over young people. Jim’s concerns only serve to reinforce Strange’s own misgivings about Xemnu and his meteoric rise to fame. Therefore, Doctor Strange mystically disguises himself as the Hulk while he and Jim pay a visit to the show’s executive producers, ex-astronauts Calvin Beame and Richmond Wagner. A deal is struck for the Hulk to do a guest-spot on a special live broadcast in four weeks when Xemnu is supposed to return to his “magic planet.” Afterwards, Jim and Doctor Strange agree to meet again in one month’s time.

On the day before Halloween, Doctor Strange sees a vision in the Orb of Agamotto of the dread Dormammu crossing the dimensions to conquer the earth. Afraid that he is not yet ready to face such a powerful adversary, Strange immediately considers summoning the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner to his side once more. However, he then falls victim to a false image of the Ancient One’s astral form, which leads his own ectoplasmic self high into the sky above the Sanctum Sanctorum. As the illusion dissolves, Strange realizes his physical body is being kidnapped. A spell prevents his spirit from re-entering his flesh, and when Wong tries to stop the kidnappers, he is savagely beaten. Doctor Strange then follows as his body is loaded into a station wagon and driven north into Vermont. By dawn, they arrive at their destination, a cabin at the foot of Bald Mountain near the town of Rutland. Learning that the kidnappers plan to wait until dusk before using the body in an evil ritual of black magic, Doctor Strange flashes back to New York where his astral form takes refuge within Wong’s body in a bid to survive the prolonged separation. Acting on their own, Wong and Clea manage to recruit the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner for a rescue mission, and the quartet tracks the kidnappers to Rutland, which is holding its annual Halloween parade. Despite the best efforts of the Hulk and Namor, the cult begins its obscene rite, offering Stephen Strange’s body as a vessel for Dormammu’s essence, since the lord of the Dark Dimension is unable to physically enter Earth’s plane of existence. However, at the crucial moment, Doctor Strange’s astral form emerges from Wong’s body and enters his own, allowing the sorcerer to confront Dormammu in the dimensional gateway. Knowing the open portal to Earth’s dimension saps Dormammu of his strength, Doctor Strange unleashes a mystic attack. The force of their battle rocks the mountain, causing an avalanche in which many of the cult members die. Namor and the Hulk shield Clea and Wong from harm until Dormammu decides to retreat, allowing Strange to emerge from the gateway and levitate his friends to safety. Thoroughly exhausted but triumphant, Doctor Strange leads Clea and Wong back to the Sanctum Sanctorum, while the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner go their own separate ways.

November 1965 – At the appointed time, Doctor Strange meets up with Jim Wilson to continue their investigation into the mysterious Xemnu. The sorcerer again disguises himself as the Hulk while he and Jim travel to Cape Kennedy for the live broadcast of the Astro-Nuts “Farewell Xemnu” special. During the broadcast, Xemnu issues an irresistible psychic summons to all children in the audience to come to him and board his spaceship, causing Doctor Strange to drop his disguise and attack. Mystically probing his foe’s mind, Strange learns that Xemnu is a real alien who had tried unsuccessfully to conquer the earth five years before, and managed to return by possessing Richmond Wagner’s body during a spacewalk. He now intends to kidnap as many Earth children as possible to repopulate his devastated home planet. However, Xemnu’s plans are ruined when the Sub-Mariner appears, having been summoned by Doctor Strange, and destroys the rocket on the launch pad before any of the children can get aboard. Then, the Hulk arrives unexpectedly and attacks Xemnu as well, smashing the alien until his body discorporates into a gaseous form. Believing the menace of Xemnu to be ended, Doctor Strange is about to renew his proposal for forming a permanent team when the military personnel on hand train their weapons on the Hulk, causing both the jade giant and the Sub-Mariner to exit in disgust. Disappointed again, Doctor Strange ensures the children have been released from the alien mind control, then bids Jim Wilson farewell and returns home.

However, only a few days later, the Hulk seeks out Doctor Strange to help the Sub-Mariner, who has been injured. The sorcerer follows the green goliath to a wooded area in New Jersey, where they find Namor unconscious and trapped inside a mystical force field. Suddenly, a grotesque cloaked figure appears and identifies himself as Necrodamus, servant of the Undying Ones. The mere mention of the name causes Strange to break out in a cold sweat. Necrodamus reveals his plan to take revenge on the trio for having ruined the Nameless One’s plan to invade Earth’s dimension last year. In one hour, the ugly little wizard proclaims, he will offer Namor as a sacrifice to his demonic masters and receive a powerful new body in return. As Necrodamus teleports away, Doctor Strange struggles to resist the sense of panic welling up in his breast. Hoping to forestall Necrodamus’ return, he attempts to weave a spell to slow down the flow of time, but, unable to properly focus his thoughts, he fails. Strange then realizes he must spend the remainder of the hour meditating, trying to master the fear that threatens to consume him. As Strange turns his thoughts inward, the Hulk continues to vent his rage on the force field surrounding their fallen friend, but to no avail.

Doctor Strange awakens from his trance nearly an hour later, having managed to calm and focus himself. As a protective measure, he tries to encase the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner within the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, but he acts too late. Namor is magically drawn through the ground into the network of caverns below. Strange’s anxiety builds as he leads the Hulk into a nearby cave and down into the bowels of the earth. When a monstrous demon leaps from the shadows, Strange is caught off guard, but the Hulk smashes the creature with little trouble. Soon they find the subterranean chamber where Necrodamus has set up his sacrificial altar, and Strange feels his knees grow weak as the awful visage of the Nameless One forms amidst the smoke of the incense torches. The stench of evil permeates the cavern as Necrodamus grows and changes into a muscular powerhouse, ready to slay the Sub-Mariner with his eldritch blade. His heart pounding like a trip hammer, Strange finds himself unable to cast any effective spells, and so he sends the Hulk to battle Necrodamus directly. Quickly realizing even the Hulk may be overmatched, Strange manages to work a simple spell that fills Namor’s force-field prison with water, thereby granting him the strength to break free. As Namor joins the fray, the Hulk collapses, having been injured by Necrodamus’ enchanted sword, and suddenly changes back into Bruce Banner. Then, seeing that Necrodamus has overwhelmed the Sub-Mariner and is bringing his blade down to complete the sacrificial rite, Doctor Strange pushes through the terror clouding his mind and seizes the wizard’s arm. Banner also lends a hand, and they succeed in delaying their foe just long enough for the mystic conjunction of stars to pass. Necrodamus suddenly and painfully reverts to his former wizened body, then hastily teleports away in defeat. Doctor Strange watches the Nameless One’s vaporous image disperse as well. Namor then mentions that he had been attacked earlier not by Necrodamus himself but by his servant—none other than the Silver Surfer. Concerned, Doctor Strange insists they must all work together to find the Surfer, wherever he may be—and unwilling to take no for an answer, declares the Defenders to be officially formed.

After two weeks of searching the globe, Doctor Strange’s astral form is with the Sub-Mariner when they encounter the Silver Surfer along the coast of Antarctica. Enraged, Namor fights with the Surfer, who disavows any knowledge of the recent sneak attack in New Jersey and then angrily departs for his “private valley” to be alone. Sensing a clue in the Surfer’s words, Strange bids Namor to rendezvous with him at his Sanctum Sanctorum. When Namor arrives, they consult the diary of the late Kenneth W. Ward. Doctor Strange suspects the valley the Surfer spoke of may be the same Himalayan valley where Ward had discovered the statue of the Nameless One. And so, they enlist the Hulk’s aid once again and journey to the Himalayas to investigate. Upon arriving in the remote snow-bound valley, the trio discovers a group of “Abominable Snowmen.” The Hulk fights with them until the Silver Surfer appears and calls him off, claiming the ape-men are harmless. However, the creatures suddenly transform themselves into a cadre of Warrior Wizards, led by a warlock called Calizuma. As they launch their attack on the startled quartet, Calizuma claims they have been manipulating the Silver Surfer for many months. But the Warrior Wizards prove to be no match for the combined might of the Defenders and are soundly defeated. Before leaving the valley, Doctor Strange offers to help the Silver Surfer escape his exile on Earth, explaining that it should be possible to circumvent Galactus’ barrier by traveling through another dimension. Excited at the prospect of freedom, the Silver Surfer agrees to give it a try. The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner both volunteer to come along. Strange weaves his spell and the four of them disappear in a nimbus of light.

A moment later, Doctor Strange is horrified to discover that they have been diverted into the hellish realm of the Undying Ones. Rather than succumb to terror, however, Strange realizes the time has come to face his greatest fear, and either conquer it or die. They soon come to the poles of ethereal force and find the girl, Barbara, still trapped within. The Silver Surfer lends his power cosmic to Doctor Strange’s mystic energies to destroy her prison. Plagued by guilt, Strange offers Barbara a lame excuse for not attempting a rescue earlier. But as the Defenders flee, they are suddenly caught within a whirling maelstrom. They escape from the vortex only to be confronted with a chilling sight: the women they love—Clea, Jarella, Shalla Bal, and Dorma—trapped within the poles of ethereal force. However, Namor, knowing Dorma is dead, sees through the illusion and realizes Barbara has betrayed them. Sure enough, the Nameless One then appears, revealing that Barbara had, after many months of imprisonment, agreed to merge with her demonic captor. Their “rescue” of her had been merely another illusion. Outraged, the Defenders press their attack. As the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner batter at the Nameless One’s massive frame, Doctor Strange and the Silver Surfer work together to entrap its foot within the poles of ethereal force. These distractions give Strange the chance to forcibly separate Barbara from her demonic mate. Unfortunately, the process destroys Barbara’s mind. Taking her along, the Defenders make good their escape and shift back into Earth’s dimension.

Rather than being somewhere beyond Galactus’ barrier, as they expected, the Defenders find themselves instead standing outside Garrett Castle in England. Bitterly disappointed, the Silver Surfer flies off in sorrow. The Hulk is furious that Barbara has gone mad and, cradling her in his arms, leaps over the wall into the castle grounds. Doctor Strange, his self-confidence crumbling, abdicates his role as team leader, leaving it up to Prince Namor to decide what they should do next. As a practical matter, Namor decides they need to follow the Hulk to make sure he does not harm Barbara accidentally. However, despite making a thorough search of the castle, the pair is unable to find any trace of them. Finally, in the cellar they discover a large smoldering brazier which suddenly flares up, its mystic flames transporting them to yet another dimension. Doctor Strange and the Sub-Mariner are confronted by the Asgardian warrior known as the Executioner, a legion of armored knights, and a wizard called Fragon, who reveals that they have entered the realm of Queen Casiolena. Quickly overcome, the heroes are thrown into a dungeon, where they join Bruce Banner and the mindless Barbara. Strange is then surprised to hear the familiar voice of the Black Knight coming from the cell across the corridor, and finds his erstwhile ally imprisoned alongside the villainous Enchantress. The Britain-based Avenger explains how the Enchantress had recruited him—using an ensorcelling kiss—to free the Executioner from Casiolena’s clutches, an undertaking that utterly failed. However, Doctor Strange is unable to prevent the Enchantress from using her magic to transform Barbara into a superhuman warrior called the Valkyrie to free them. After the Valkyrie smashes down the cell doors, Strange assists the Enchantress in defeating Fragon while the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, the Black Knight, and the Valkyrie rout Casiolena’s forces and take down the Executioner. Casiolena then appears, ready to smite them all with her sorcery, but before Doctor Strange can react, the Valkyrie and the Enchantress knock her out. When the Black Knight objects to the reconciliation between the Executioner and the Enchantress, the goddess turns her pawn into a stone statue with a magical kiss. After the two Asgardians depart, Doctor Strange finds he is unable to reverse the Black Knight’s transformation. Thus, the Defenders take the statue with them as they traverse the dimensional barrier back to Garrett Castle. Doctor Strange then casts a spell to seal the castle behind an invisible, impenetrable barrier, and decides to take his friend’s petrified form back to the Sanctum Sanctorum to work on a cure. Valkyrie claims both the Ebony Blade and the Black Knight’s winged horse, Aragorn, and declares herself a member of the Defenders, over the others’ objections. She then accompanies Doctor Strange back to New York.

Though he feels a bit put out, Doctor Strange allows the Valkyrie to stay at the Sanctum Sanctorum until she can figure out what to do with herself. Bereft of any memories or clear sense of identity, the Valkyrie is hesitant to strike out on her own. Discreetly, Strange also investigates the possibility of undoing Barbara’s transformation, but is unable to find the answer. However, he is gladdened when Clea begins spending more and more time with him at the Sanctum Sanctorum, oblivious to the fact that she is motivated primarily by jealousy. Though the Valkyrie is beautiful, Strange is not in the least attracted to her, and devotes most of his time to the Black Knight’s grim fate. Towards the end of the month, the Sub-Mariner pays him a visit to check on his progress and watches as Strange fails again to break the Enchantress’ spell.

December 1965 – After several awkward weeks, Doctor Strange encourages the Valkyrie to move on and decide what to do with her life. He convinces her that she should begin by building friendships with the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner, and gives her two mystic crystals that will lead her to them. Aware of Clea’s negative attitude toward her, the Valkyrie takes the crystals and flies off on Aragorn. Once she has departed, Strange and Clea are finally able to openly discuss their feelings for each other, and to address the issues in their relationship that have kept them apart. They come to a new understanding, and for the first time in over a year, Doctor Strange feels his life is back on track.

Later, the Valkyrie returns with the Sub-Mariner to report to Doctor Strange on their encounter with the Omegatron, which nearly destroyed the world after Strange had inadvertently weakened the time-slowing spell he had cast back in February. Strange curses himself for a novice, but is relieved that, along with the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner’s cousin Namorita, they had managed to destroy the doomsday device in the nick of time. However, while the Valkyrie and Namor are telling their tale, the Sanctum Sanctorum is suddenly sealed within a mystic barrier. The house is then attacked by Cyrus Black, a minor sorcerer Strange had encountered several years ago, and his army of underlings. After the force field is shattered by the approach of the Silver Surfer, the Defenders easily rout Black and his thugs. Unfortunately, the villains manage to escape when some stray bolts of bedevilment threaten to crumble the Black Knight’s petrified form. After introductions are made, the Silver Surfer invites the Valkyrie to accompany him on a tour of the planet. Namor invites himself along and they depart, leaving Doctor Strange to his studies.

Doctor Strange is consulting the Orb of Agamotto when his friends return about a week later to tell him of their travels. Suddenly, they are beset by a succession of monstrous demons that appear out of nowhere and vanish into nothingness as soon as they are defeated. The instigator of these attacks is revealed when Cyrus Black materializes among them, now possessing an idealized form. As Black unleashes powerful magics, Doctor Strange is bewildered by his inability to fight back. However, when Namor realizes how unreal the situation is, the spell is suddenly broken. Cyrus Black fades into nothingness, and the Sanctum Sanctorum returns to normal. Doctor Strange theorizes that reality had somehow been altered by Black’s unconscious mind, and when Namor convinced the wizard his dream was not real, the spell could no longer be maintained. After dinner, the Silver Surfer and the Sub-Mariner depart, but Strange reluctantly agrees to allow the Valkyrie to continue staying with him until she can sort out some of the mysteries of her existence. Now more secure in their relationship, Clea feels less threatened by the Valkyrie, and the previous tension in the house does not return. Doctor Strange at last feels ready to face whatever challenges the new year may bring.


Notes:

January 1965 – Stephen Strange presents a classic case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the extradimensional demons known as the Undying Ones. The results would prove to be far-reaching and life-changing. He returns from self-imposed retirement in the back-up story included in Marvel Feature #1.

February 1965 – The Defenders face their first crisis as a team in the main story in Marvel Feature #1. Namor, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer had worked together the previous December to prevent a dangerous new weather-controlling machine from being activated, as seen in Sub-Mariner #34–35.

MarchSeptember 1965 – The Ancient One indicated it would not be easy or quick for Stephen Strange to regain complete command of his occult powers, and his lengthy retraining period represents another Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe. While Strange would soon overcome his PTSD, it would be a long time before he exhibited the cool confidence seen in his earliest stories. When Sara Wolfe is introduced in Doctor Strange v.2 #38, she is described as “an old, dear friend.” As that story falls several years later on my OMU timeline, this seems like the ideal placement for their first meeting.

October 1965 – Doctor Strange teams up with Spider-Man once again in Amazing Spider-Man #109. Chronological analysis reveals that the first part of the story in Marvel Feature #3 actually occurs before the Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade story shown in the previous issue. Doctor Strange is likely unaware of all the other weirdness going on in Rutland on that particular night.

November 1965 – The Defenders’ battle with Xemnu, seen in Marvel Feature #3, is followed almost immediately by the events depicted in Defenders #1–4. Although Doctor Strange notes that they had been searching for the Silver Surfer for two months, this is merely a topical reference to the two months that had elapsed since the previous issue was published. During this period, Steve Englehart often wrote his stories as though they occurred in real-time. The Sub-Mariner watches Doctor Strange try to cure the Black Knight in a flashback seen in Avengers #117.

December 1965 – The Valkyrie moves in with Doctor Strange in Defenders #5 and would actually live there for quite a while. Cyrus Black’s attempts at getting revenge on Strange bring us up to Defenders #6.






Wednesday

OMU: Secret Invasions -- 1962


During the first couple of years of the superhero revival in the 1960s, Marvel Comics featured so many “alien invasion” stories that one is forced to wonder what the heck was going on in the Marvel Universe to make the earth such a tempting target. The second issue of nearly all Marvel’s new features was given over to an alien invasion storyline, with more to follow in subsequent months. Although the alien invasion had been a staple of adventure comics for many years, Lee & Kirby and Co. threatened to wear it out through overuse. Nevertheless, it is interesting to put these various stories into a coherent chronology and look at them from the aliens’ point of view, to give us a different perspective of the earth’s place in the cosmos at this critical juncture in the history of the Original Marvel Universe.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


January 1962 – After a skirmish in the ongoing Kree-Skrull War gives new strategic importance to the planet Earth, which is rich in exploitable resources and located conveniently close to a natural space-warp, Skrull Emperor Dorrek gives the order to launch an invasion. However, upon arriving at the planet, the Skrull fleet monitors reports of the recent emergence of a team of superpowered champions called the Fantastic Four. The decision is made to send four agents down to impersonate and discredit the heroes, using a combination of the Skrulls’ natural shape-changing ability and advanced technology. The Skrull spies are initially successful, and the Fantastic Four are arrested and detained by the United States military. However, before the agents can signal the invasion fleet, the Fantastic Four escape and trick the Skrulls into revealing themselves. The Skrull spies are taken prisoner and then, posing as the impostors, the Fantastic Four board the fleet’s flagship and use faked photos to convince its commander that Earth’s defenses are too formidable. Volunteering to remain behind, the Fantastic Four return to the planet as the Skrull fleet withdraws. Though one of the spies has managed to escape, the other three are made to change into cows and are hypnotized to forget their true natures. They are left grazing in a pasture while the fugitive Skrull goes into hiding.

February 1962 – Learning of the Skrulls’ embarrassing defeat through his contacts in the Kree Empire, Torkon, Emperor of the Tribbitites, decides to invade Earth and thereby score a strategic coup. To determine the true nature and extent of Earth’s defenses, Torkon orders the interrogation of the most brilliant scientist associated with Earth’s military forces, which leads his advance team to capture Dr. Robert Bruce Banner of the Air Force installation known as Desert Base in New Mexico. Banner is taken aboard their ship, which returns to high orbit. However, before Captain Torrak can begin the interrogation, Banner transforms into a rampaging green-skinned monster with incredible strength and easily commandeers the vessel. Just then, the ship is blasted out of the sky by a barrage of surface-to-air missiles with nuclear warheads. After it crash-lands, the crew escapes capture by tunneling under the wreckage. They then signal the rest of the armada to begin the invasion. Emperor Torkon cuts into all electromagnetic broadcasts to demand planet-wide surrender. To bring the earthlings to heel, the armada activates a device that disrupts the orbit of the moon, resulting in earthquakes and floods that cause a global panic. Within hours, however, the armada is attacked by a ground-based directed energy weapon that disrupts their systems with powerful gamma rays. The Tribbitite ships spin out of control and are forced to retreat. Torkon is humiliated and Captain Torrak is sentenced to the treadmills. Earth’s governments cover up the invasion by claiming it was an elaborate hoax.

April 1962 – Having witnessed the previous two failed invasions from their observation platform on one of the moons of Saturn, an expeditionary force of Kronans from the planet Ria initiate their own invasion plan that they believe will be successful. A single ship lands outside a fishing village on the coast of Norway, where the crew tests their weapons in Earth’s environment. Facing no significant opposition, the Kronans signal their fleet to enter the atmosphere. The ships are met by a squadron of NATO fighter jets, but the human pilots are easily fooled by a holographic illusion of a giant monster. The surface-to-air nuclear missiles that were so effective against the Tribbitites are shrugged off by the Kronans’ force fields. However, after the Kronans land and disembark, they are attacked by a lone human wielding a war hammer who routs their forces and smashes every weapon they employ against him. Terrified that the earth has armies of such invincible warriors, the invaders abort their mission and flee the planet. Outraged by the appalling lack of actionable intelligence, the Kronan high command orders the observation platform orbiting Saturn shut down.

June 1962 – Oblivious to these events, members of a race of unidentified green-skinned aliens arrive in a single flying saucer with a plan to conquer the earth using mass hypnosis. They construct a giant lifelike robot in the image of the Neanderthals whom they studied on their previous visit to Earth 80,000 years ago and set it down in the small town of Granville, New York. While the flying saucer hovers overhead, concealed within an artificial cloud, the robot enslaves the inhabitants with its hypnotic stare and directs them to construct a wall encircling the town. However, a champion soon appears wearing a suit of high-tech armor and destroys the robot with powerful magnetic devices. When he exposes the flying saucer and turns his magnets on it as well, the aliens quickly leave Earth in search of easier conquests.

July 1962 – A lone alien invader, exiled from the planet Astra a few thousand light-years away, attacks Desert Base in New Mexico, using his psychokinetic power over metallic molecules to easily destroy the weapons he finds there. Calling himself the Metal Master, he declares his intention to conquer the earth and issues his ultimatum. Though he is challenged by a green-skinned powerhouse called the Hulk, the Metal Master is able to defeat him in battle. Feeling unopposed, he then roams the earth wreaking havoc upon whatever metal structures catch his eye while awaiting the planet’s surrender. However, just before the deadline, the Hulk challenges him again, this time brandishing some sort of weapon. The Metal Master’s powers unaccountably fail him, and while straining to exert his mental influence over the weapon’s molecular structure, he draws too close. The Hulk grabs him and threatens to pulverize him unless he undoes all the damage he caused. Afraid for his life, the Metal Master complies. Uncertain of what has happened to him, the Metal Master flees to his ship and returns to outer space.

News of the “invincible” earth reaches the planet Xarta in the Fornax Galaxy, which inspires the swaggering Warlord Ugarth to select it as the site of his final campaign of conquest before handing the reins of power over to his son Zano. Only days after the Metal Master’s defeat, Ugarth’s ship lands outside New York, which they have determined to be the planet’s prime city. Following their usual strategy, the Xartans use their natural shape-changing abilities to impersonate key government personnel, such as the mayor and members of the city council, in order to push through nonsensical laws and ordinances to sow confusion, unrest, and panic among the populace. However, their ship is discovered by the hammer-wielding champion called Thor, who bests both Ugarth and his son Zano in single combat. When the Xartan fleet detects Ugarth’s body hurtling through the upper atmosphere, they decide to retreat. Zano and his lieutenants are forced to change themselves into trees, which renders them essentially mindless.

August 1962 – A criminal from the planet Kosmos escapes to Earth when he manages to piggyback his teleportation signal on the gamma-ray beam originating from the astronomical observatory of Dr. Vernon Van Dyne. After murdering the puny human scientist, the gelatinous creature destroys the gamma-ray device so he cannot be followed, then oozes out into the city to conquer himself a world. Finding he can absorb matter from the environment to increase his size, the creature makes his way along the Hudson River. Though he encounters military resistance, the creature shrugs off their mightiest weapons. Having reached gigantic proportions, he moves back into the city, terrorizing the populace. Suddenly, however, he is fired upon by an unseen sniper, and as the shotgun shells penetrate his undulating form they release a chemical that neutralizes the acid in his biochemistry, causing his body mass to break down. The would-be conqueror dies in agony.

September 1962 – Ready at last to avenge the humiliation he suffered at the hands of the Fantastic Four, the Skrull Emperor Dorrek dispatches a genetically-modified warrior whom they call the Super-Skrull. Arriving on Earth, the Super-Skrull lands his ship in New York’s Times Square and publicly claims the planet for the Skrull Empire. When the Fantastic Four appear to challenge him, he reveals that he has been granted the ability to mimic all their superpowers to a highly-magnified degree. Overwhelmed, the human heroes retreat. Later, the Super-Skrull confidently accepts the team’s challenge to meet in final combat on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Once there, he easily overcomes his three male opponents using his “secret weapon,” irresistible hypnotic powers. Unfortunately, the Invisible Girl manages to place a small device on his back that jams the power-augmentation beam the Skrulls are sending, causing his superpowers to fade. Severely weakened, the Super-Skrull is then trapped within a dormant volcano by the rest of the Fantastic Four. Even after he manages to remove the jamming device, the Skrull energy beam proves unable to penetrate the volcanic rock, and the Super-Skrull remains hopelessly imprisoned.

Meanwhile, two ships from the relatively backwater planet of Alpha Chiltar III land on an island in the Aegean Sea. They construct a 50-foot robot in the shape of a Cyclops, the image drawn from the local mythology, and use it to capture numerous human specimens for examination to see if the earth will be easy pickings for conquest and colonization. After a couple of weeks, the decision is made to signal their invasion fleet, and they order the robot to kill all the prisoners. However, the robot suddenly goes haywire and crushes one of the spaceships. Unable to reestablish control, the aliens assume that humans must possess previously unsuspected mental powers. The Alpha-Chiltarians crowd into their remaining ship and blast off, canceling their invasion plans.

October 1962 – A race of extradimensional aliens accidentally discovers the existence of Earth and a means to cross the dimensional barrier. They decide to invade and conquer using their ability to project their astral forms into other beings and thereby “possess” them. Near their interdimensional nexus they find a small Bavarian village and target it as a test of their invasion plans. They are initially successful, until a stranger comes to town, the mystic master Dr. Stephen Strange. The human mage crosses into the alien dimension and defeats their leader in single combat, forcing him to withdraw his agents from the village. Doctor Strange then returns to Earth and casts a spell to seal the dimensional barrier once again.

November 1962 – After observing the earth for many months, an alien being known as the Space Phantom emerges from the Limbo dimension, where his home planet, Phantus, has become trapped as a result of their rampant abuse of time-travel technology. The Space Phantom has been empowered by the master of Limbo, Immortus, with the ability to assume the shape of any being, casting his victim into Limbo for the duration of his impostiture. He now plans to use this ability to destroy all superheroes so that his people can abandon Phantus and colonize the earth instead, and he targets the recently-formed team the Avengers as the most immediate threat. Assuming the identity of the Hulk, the Space Phantom sows the seeds of discord among the Avengers, but he makes the mistake of bragging about his plans to their junior associate Rick Jones. Alerted to the danger, the Avengers fight the Space Phantom as he switches from one identity to the next, but he battles them to a standstill. However, when Thor finally arrives, the Space Phantom finds that he is unable to overcome the enchantments of Odin. Instead of taking on Thor’s form, the Space Phantom finds himself transported to Limbo and is unable to return to Earth.


Notes:

January 1962 – The Skrulls take on the Fantastic Four for the first time in Fantastic Four #2. Prior to this, it seems the Skrulls visited Earth about once every fifteen or so years, mainly to collect “slaves” for their gladiatorial contests. On their previous visit, in 1947, the ship crashed near Roswell, New Mexico and the crew was autopsied by the United States Air Force. Tales of widespread Skrull activity during the late 1950s and their encounters with “3-D Man” are highly exaggerated if not entirely false. If the Skrulls had successfully infiltrated Earth society only three to four years before this story, it is unlikely Mister Fantastic’s pictures of giant monsters would have scared them off.

February 1962 – The Tribbitites, or the “Toad Men” as they were originally called, menace the earth in Incredible Hulk #2. In Hulk #191, Torkon explains that their current home planet is an artificial world built from stolen Kree plans, suggesting that they would be informed of major news from both the Kree Empire and its traditional enemies the Skrulls.

April 1962 – The Kronans, a.k.a. “the Stone Men from Saturn,” are driven from Earth by the mighty Thor in Journey Into Mystery #83. It is doubtless due to Odin’s machinations that their ship landed so near the cave where Mjolnir lay hidden and that Don Blake just happened to be vacationing there at the time.

June 1962 – The giant Neanderthal robot and his alien masters face Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #40. It has been speculated that these aliens may be or be related to the similar-looking Guna seen later in Tales of Suspense #55.

July 1962 – The Metal Master attempts to conquer the earth singlehandedly in Incredible Hulk #6. It just so happened the Fantastic Four were on a mission to the moon at this time, which is why they failed to respond to the crisis. The Xartans are defeated by Thor in Journey Into Mystery #90.

August 1962 – The Creature from Kosmos never knows that his unseen assailant is the Ant-Man, aided and abetted by his brand-new partner the Wasp, as depicted in Tales to Astonish #44. Although the Creature was resurrected for stories set in the Second Marvel Universe, the original story makes it pretty clear he died a gruesome death.

September 1962 – The Super-Skrull comes to Earth in Fantastic Four #18. The A-Chiltarians and their Cyclops robot are defeated by Ant-Man and the Wasp in Tales to Astonish #46, though like the Creature from Kosmos, they are unaware of who has defeated them. Incidentally, Amazing Spider-Man #2 also features an alien invasion storyline, although it was later revealed that the “aliens” were just human crooks in disguise.

October 1962 – Doctor Strange stops the aliens known as the Possessors in Strange Tales #118.

November 1962 – The Avengers battle the Space Phantom in Avengers #2. The plight of the planet Phantus is revealed in Thor #281.


There were several other extraterrestrial incursions during this period, but they did not really qualify as “alien invasion” stories. The Ovoids and the Elan, from Fantastic Four #10 and #24, respectively, were passing through our solar system peaceably when they had close encounters with people of Earth. The Xantha stirred up some trouble with their “hostility ray” in Fantastic Four #7, but their only objective was to coerce the FF into saving their own planet. There is no real evidence that either Warlord Kulla or the denizens of Dimension Z, seen in Tales to Astonish #41 and #49, respectively, had plans to invade the earth dimension after kidnapping some of our scientists to build them weapons of mass destruction. They may only have wanted to exploit human ingenuity to give them an advantage in their own geopolitical struggles.


Monday

The Last Avengers

While speculating about the future of the Original Marvel Universe for my previous post, I found myself wondering what lay in store for the world’s premiere superhero team, the mighty Avengers. I was especially curious about how this veteran group would be affected by the coming of the supremely-powerful team I dubbed “The Saviors,” who basically made the Avengers redundant. It made sense that the Avengers would eventually disband, particularly as there would be fewer and fewer villains worthy of their combined might. When I realized the team’s 20th anniversary was imminent, it seemed the right point to mark the end of an era. But that begged the question, who were “The Last Avengers”? So I thought it would be fun to try and come up with a logical roster.



The final group to cry “Avengers Assemble!” consisted of:


Hulk (Bruce Banner) – Founding member in 1962, rejoined in 1977. Following the successful reintegration of Bruce Banner’s fractured psyche, and the rehabilitation of the Hulk’s reputation, the jade giant renewed his association with the team he helped found. Unbeatable on the field of battle and unsurpassed in the scientific laboratory, the Hulk quickly proved himself an invaluable asset, and within a few years became the team’s unofficial leader.

Vision (no alias) – 8th recruit (1964). A mainstay of the team since he first joined, the android Avenger remained an active member to the very end. After his mind was erased in 1975 and Wonder Man refused to lend his brain patterns again, the Vision gradually developed a unique personality of his own. The emergence of genuine emotional responses allowed him to improve his strained relationship with his ex-wife, the Scarlet Witch, and also to deal with the shocking revelation of his true origins.

Quasar (Wendell Vaughn) – 35th recruit (early 1975). Serving with the Avengers for several years brought Quasar the experience he needed to master the use of his energy-manipulating quantum bands, and as his skills increased, so did his confidence. By the end he was seen as a veteran member who worked tirelessly to protect the earth from all manner of extraterrestrial menaces.

Sersi (no alias) – 37th recruit (spring 1975). The virtually-immortal Eternal Sersi continued to serve the Avengers with her powers of molecular transmutation until the end, finding the adventures to be an engaging diversion in her millennia-spanning existence. Though she had initially joined in order to pursue a romance with Captain America, she stayed on even after Cap’s deteriorating health forced him to retire, thus demonstrating that she was a loyal and dedicated member of the team.

Living Lightning (Miguel Santos) – 42nd recruit (summer 1975). Despite his antagonistic beginnings, the Living Lightning soon proved himself a stalwart hero and remained an Avenger in good standing until the team disbanded. He served with the west-coast contingent until it was dissolved as an independent entity, and then took up residence at Avengers HQ in New York.

Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) – 43rd recruit (summer 1975). An on-again, off-again member of the Avengers due to her tumultuous personal life, Spider-Woman nevertheless became very popular with her teammates and was seen as a valuable addition to the roster. She rejoined during the team’s final year after her daughter graduated from high school.

Zephyr (no alias) – 54th recruit (1978). An immortal being from another dimension, the “wind elemental” Zephyr hooked up with the Avengers following the death of her human lover Richard Harper, during a period when she wandered the Middle East with N’Kantu, the so-called “Living Mummy.” Though recruited together, Zephyr remained with the Avengers after N’Kantu moved on, viewing her membership as a means to explore the wonders of the modern world. Though her teammates often found it difficult to relate to her, Zephyr’s abilities made her an asset in a battle, and she eventually became close friends with Sersi.

Rocket Man (Sam Guthrie) – 63rd recruit (1980). Final recruit before the team disbanded, remembered as “the last Avenger.” After severing all ties with the violent mutant taskforce led by Cable, Sam Guthrie abandoned his “Cannonball” identity, feeling it had been irredeemably tarnished. He assumed the name Rocket Man and embarked on a solo crimefighting career that immediately met with great success and popular acclaim. Having mastered his mutant powers of thermo-chemical propulsion, Rocket Man’s invitation to join the Avengers showed how far he had come from the days when he nearly flunked out of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.


In 1982, roughly a year after the Saviors began to virtually eliminate the threat of super-villains, the Avengers held a meeting of all surviving members and voted to officially disband, bringing to a close their proud 20-year history. Their faithful butler Edwin Jarvis was given a generous early-retirement package, and the Avengers Headquarters Building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was subsequently converted into a museum.


Next Issue: Secret Invasions!


Wednesday

Post-OMU

In my previous post, I discussed in general terms where the Original Marvel Universe seemed to be heading when it came to an end circa 1991, based on where the characters were left off. By extending my OMU timeline out a bit beyond that, I realized that the climax of the entire overarching saga of the Marvel Universe was imminent. The two biggest storylines that were building to that climax were the inevitable war between humans and mutants (from the X-Men titles) and what would happen when Franklin Richards came into full possession of his mutant superpowers (from Fantastic Four). And best of all, those two storylines promised to intersect.

But, of course, the last thing Marvel wanted to do was bring its ongoing saga to its logical conclusion, which is probably the main reason they bailed on continuity when they did. Unfortunately, when you set up a number of heroic characters to have grand destinies, if they never achieve those destinies, then they cease to be super-heroes and become super-losers instead. Also, one of the main recurring themes of the early Marvel Universe stories, the tone set by Stan Lee and clarified by later writers such as Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber, could be summed up as “the rising and advancing of the spirit.” This is what gave the Original Marvel Universe the feeling that it was going somewhere, and not just spinning its wheels like Marvel’s current output. That theme was largely abandoned in the 1990s and the result was the Marvel Universe became a darker and darker place. The themes these days seem to be fatalism, nihilism, and entropy. In the Original Marvel Universe, however, that original theme is preserved and taken to its proper conclusion, a culmination of everything that occurred in over thirty years of published stories.

In the course of my readings of the OMU canon, it became clear to me that five characters in particular seemed marked for some special destiny, a greatness that, if properly channeled, could change the world immeasurably for the better. All one would need do is bring them together at the right moment. And that’s what happens here.

And so, below, I present an outline of what I believe to be the true “final chapter” of the saga of the Original Marvel Universe!



1975
The end of OMU stories. Tony Stark dies, despite attempts by certain parties to prevent the loss of his inventive genius by forcing him to upload his mind into a computer. District Attorney Blake Tower blocks all their efforts so that Stark can die with dignity.

The global security grid established by Quasar greatly reduces the number of alien incursions on the planet Earth.

As Franklin Richards turns 11, the Fantastic Four adopt new versions of their classic blue & black costumes.

The Hulk builds a new life for himself with Betty Ross and makes peace with the U.S. military.

The Avengers’ efforts to find Thor come to nothing. Likewise, no trace can be found of the Sub-Mariner.

Magneto becomes a martyr to a violent faction of mutants, causing tensions to increase. The Mutant Liberation Front comes to prominence, led by the mysterious Stryfe, who is secretly Cable in disguise. He seeks to play all sides of the mutant issue to fan the flames of war with the human race, a war he believes mutants will win and thus bring about the future world he grew up in. The X-Men remain unaware of Cable’s double-dealing as they try to re-establish their reputation as heroes.

Selene, a.k.a. the Black Queen, completes her takeover of the Hellfire Club and converts it into a cult for which she herself is the object of worship.


1976
Captain America celebrates his 35th anniversary and is honored by President Ford as the Official Superhero of the Bicentennial.

Ben Grimm marries Sharon Ventura.

Matt Murdock retires as Daredevil to become District Attorney for New York following the resignation of Blake Tower, whose career was systematically destroyed in retaliation for his role in allowing Tony Stark to die.

Quasar proves himself by saving Eon from the threat posed by the cosmic being Oblivion, thereby fulfilling his prime duty as Protector of the Universe.

Amanda Sefton is enslaved by powerful demonic entities to which she was exposed while under the sinister influence of the Shadow King. Calling herself Black Magik, she kidnaps Illyana Rasputin to serve as a blood sacrifice, causing the X-Men and Excalibur to team up against her. Despite their best efforts, the mutant heroes are unable to stop Amanda without killing her, leaving Nightcrawler wracked with guilt.

Jennifer Kale assists the Avengers on a few occasions, having met them through Quasar, and proves herself a formidable sorceress.

Shang-Chi dies from a slow-acting poison he was exposed to last year.

Captain Britain and Meggan are married.

Jimmy Carter is elected President of the United States.


1977
Peter Parker gives up being Spider-Man when Mary Jane has a baby, though he finds adjusting to retirement very difficult. He finds a full-time job in the sciences to support his family.

Johnny and Alicia Storm have a daughter, and so the Human Torch finally takes an extended leave of absence from the Fantastic Four.

When Meggan gets pregnant, Excalibur effectively disbands. Shadowcat and Phoenix rejoin the X-Men, but Nightcrawler and Cerise leave for the Shi’ar Empire.

Sam Guthrie breaks away from Cable’s increasingly violent splinter group and adopts the new identity Rocket Man, soon becoming the most popular superhero of the day.

The Hulk rejoins the Avengers and proves himself a hero to the world, while also using his scientific genius to solve the energy crisis.


1978
Wolverine finally discovers the whole truth about his past. He confronts Silver Fox, which leads the X-Men to work with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring down her branch of HYDRA. Wolverine then quits the X-Men and returns to Canada.

Public opinion remains increasingly negative towards mutants due to the constant destruction caused by rival factions that the X-Men fail to contain.

Matt Murdock marries Karen Page.

Wundarr, also known as the Aquarian, meets with Doctor Strange and enlists the sorcerer’s disciple Topaz in his own cause.

After a brief stint in the Avengers, the Human Torch returns to the Fantastic Four.

Captain America strains his back and is forced to limit himself to administrative duties at Avengers Headquarters. Without the super-soldier serum to sustain it, his physique slowly reverts to its natural state.


1979
Franklin Richards turns 15. Charles Xavier meets with Reed Richards to offer Franklin a place at his School for Gifted Youngsters when his mutant powers fully manifest. However, Wundarr turns up and talks Reed & Sue into letting him tutor Franklin instead. Reed & Sue realize they have doubts about the efficacy of Xavier’s methods and prefer Wundarr’s peaceful approach.

Steve Rogers officially retires as Captain America and marries Bernie Rosenthal.

Ben & Sharon Grimm have twin sons.

When American hostages are taken in Iran, the Hulk leads the Avengers in to rescue them.


1980
Franklin Richards hits puberty and manifests his full mutant powers. He goes off with Wundarr and Topaz to learn how to use them properly at a secluded retreat in the Negative Zone.

Aunt May dies at the age of 86.

Nick Fury retires from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Johnny and Alicia Storm get divorced.

Charles Xavier is publicly “outed” as a mutant.

Tensions between humans and mutants are at an all-time high, and after President Carter is painted as “soft on mutants,” Republican challenger Ronald Reagan is elected to replace him in the Oval Office.


1981
The U.S. government activates its latest generation of Sentinels and so Cable sparks the long-brewing war between humans and mutants into a full-scale open conflict by destroying the city of Pittsburgh. Charles Xavier is killed during a retaliatory military attack on the X-Mansion. Rachel Summers fears the future she sought to prevent is coming to pass, but then she mysteriously disappears. Cyclops finally learns that Cable is his son as Cable’s true colors are discovered by all. Wolverine returns to the X-Men to lead them into their final battle, and his team finds itself forging unlikely alliances with mutants from all over the political spectrum. Unexpectedly, Quicksilver leads the Inhumans to fight at the X-Men’s side. They face a coalition of international government forces with an army of Sentinels, backed by S.H.I.E.L.D., high-tech mercenaries, and various superheroes. The Avengers are divided by the government’s call to arms and the team nearly disbands over the mutant issue. Cable manipulates both sides into waging the war’s first all-out battle in the heart of Manhattan. The destruction of New York City seems imminent when the conflict is abruptly ended by a new cadre of heroes, who are quickly hailed as the ultimate superhero team. They are dubbed “The Saviors.”

Topaz, Franklin Richards, Wundarr, Rachel Summers, and Jennifer Kale as the Saviors.

The Saviors make short work of the Sentinels and send Cable back to the future from which he came, while also plucking the infant Nathan Christopher Summers out of time and returning him to his father, Cyclops. Franklin Richards then restores the city of Pittsburgh, but explains that he cannot (or, perhaps, will not) raise the dead. They vow to work to bring about the peaceful coexistence of humans and mutants. Next, they set about to “cure” / “fix” / “heal” every super-villain on earth, starting with Doctor Doom, until the threat from such beings is virtually eliminated. Finally, they even take on Mephisto and the other Hell-Lords, who are utterly destroyed once and for all, greatly reducing the influence of evil in the world. The Saviors prove to be completely unbeatable, and, thanks to Aquarian’s visionary leadership, they usher in a new age of peace and calm to the world. Ultimately, in the presence of Uatu the Watcher, the Elder God Gaea appears to the team and reveals that they are the culmination of what the Celestials began one million years ago, and their destiny is to help make the Planet Earth into a paradise.


THE END



Why These Five?

There is plenty of textual evidence to suggest that these five characters, allowed to reach full maturity in a normal time-scale, would make the most powerful superhero team ever assembled—a superhero team that can accomplish what other superhero teams only dream about. And their appearance would also serve as the ideal climax to the epic saga of the Marvel Universe as it had been building for its first thirty years, before it went completely off the tracks.

Aquarian (Wundarr)
In Marvel Two-in-One #58, Wundarr communes with the Cosmic Cube and attains enlightenment. As he states to his friend Ben Grimm, “I have become the living son of the Cosmic Cube. I have the power to better the world. Henceforth I will call myself the Aquarian, after the star-system of my native planet. I will bring to the world the peace I have found.” He reiterates his mission before leaving Project: PEGASUS to wander the world. “It is my mission to open the way for a new age—to bring mankind the peace I’ve found.” Soon growing a beard, the Aquarian is clearly a Christ-like figure with his talk of love and peace, and he even embarks on his own “forty days in the wilderness” to ponder how to go about his mission and to explore the limits of his heightened “null-field” powers. The parallel to Christ is especially obvious in his last canonical appearance in Marvel Comics Presents #46. And so, as post-OMU events in the superhero community reach a boiling point, Aquarian would be calmly assembling his small band of “apostles” and readying them for their mission. Foremost among them, of course, is the teen-aged Franklin Richards, whom Wundarr knows through his association with the Fantastic Four.


Fantastic Man (Franklin Richards)
Unlike the demented freak that he became in the Earth-616 continuity (see the excellent discussion of Franklin’s psychological problems at Chris Tolworthy’s Fantastic Four website), the Franklin Richards of the Original Marvel Universe grew up in relative normalcy, given his unique circumstances. It’s unlikely that he went to public school, but was probably tutored at home in Four Freedoms Plaza, where he received an excellent primary education. His friendship with the Power Pack would have aided with socialization, so no real worries there. And he lived in a warm, loving, and supportive family environment, with parents who demonstrated they would do whatever was necessary for his well-being. More likely than not, Franklin was all right, and he would aspire to carry on the altruistic tradition that his family established (See Fantastic Four Annual #14). The real turning point in his life would come as he approached puberty and Charles Xavier made his inevitable overtures to his parents to send him to join the X-Men’s novice class. But this is by no means the only option, and if Reed and Sue thought about it, they might question what, really, have Charles Xavier and the X-Men accomplished for human/mutant relations in 15 or so years? Xavier trains his students to fight, to be soldiers in his cause, however he might soften the truth with MLK-like rhetoric. Is that really the life they would want for their son? Would they want him turned into the X-Men’s ultimate weapon? If Wundarr, whom they implicitly trust, offered a different option—a positive, peaceful, optimistic, almost Zen option—wouldn’t they jump at the chance? And it is well established that Franklin has a special connection to the Negative Zone—the only portal to which is inside his father’s laboratory, making it far away and nearby at the same time—and thus it is the perfect isolated yet relatively safe place for his period of training. Plus, it would fulfill the Futurist’s prophecy in Fantastic Four #216. Thus, after a couple of years, Franklin Richards returns from the Negative Zone to become the distillation of everything his family has stood for—he is essentially, the “fantastic one,” the Fantastic Man, the Man With the Power. As Franklin himself says in Fantastic Four #245, “With my power I can do anything.” He is undoubtedly the most powerful superhuman ever to walk the earth, with psychic powers at a cosmic scale that even Mephisto is no match for. And Mephisto has good reason to worry...


Catalyst (Topaz)
In Tomb of Dracula #64, Mephisto tries to destroy Topaz, for he fears the potential inherent in her empathic powers. As he says, “You are coming of age, and soon your power will be at its greatest! Indeed, at that moment, you shall possess power enough to destroy even we who call ourselves Satan! ... Your empathic abilities will eventually siphon away the evil we seek to create. Your powers will absorb all hatred and fear into you. Your powers can create a utopia! We cannot allow that to happen! You stand above the others—for you possess the power of love—and love is the one emotion of his we cannot destroy! You can spread that love. You can trample on the seeds of hatred which we sow.” However, forces outside of herself allow Topaz to access her fully-matured powers at that moment, and she unleashes them on Mephisto, who realizes he’s been set up by those same unidentified forces: “Suddenly we understand it all! He planted the knowledge of you in our mind. He wanted us to babble on, to speak to you of your future! Damn it all! He has made us the catalyst of our own doom!” Who exactly “he” is is left nebulous. As Mephisto is passing himself off as Satan in this story, the implication is he is referring to the Judeo-Christian God, but in terms of the Original Marvel Universe, it may be the mysterious One-Above-All or the same unknown Benevolent Entity that aided both Doctor Strange and Dracula’s wife Domini around this same time (if they are, in fact, separate beings). In any case, Topaz is able to cause Mephisto’s form to temporarily discorporate, just as Franklin Richards would manage to do later on. Unfortunately, Mephisto’s demon servants managed to trap her and ensorcel her, as explained in Doctor Strange v.2 #76, to nullify her powers even after she came of age. Eventually, Doctor Strange assists her in achieving that potential, as seen in Strange Tales v.2 #1. Topaz then begins a period of training so that she can learn to wield these powers to their fullest extent, and eventually hooks up with Doctor Strange again. With the Saviors, she can use her power not only to heal external wounds (like Doctor Doom’s face, for example), but she is also a “healer of the spirit,” as she puts it in Strange Tales v.2 #11. Therefore, she could also heal the madness in Doctor Doom’s mind, thereby not only ending the threat he poses, but turning him into a force for good in the world who uses his scientific genius for the benefit of all mankind. And so on with all the villains. Certainly a monumental task. But, if necessary, her power can be strengthened with the near-limitless Phoenix Force...


Phoenix (Rachel Summers)
As Rachel tells Necrom in Excalibur #50, “The Phoenix isn’t power in itself—but it has the ability to tap into the elemental forces of the universe—and they’re near infinite.” To demonstrate, Phoenix next battles Galactus into submission without breaking a sweat, as seen in Excalibur #61. However, Galactus reveals that the Phoenix maintains itself as a sentient entity on our plane of existence by drawing energy from “the sea of life yet unborn,” and thereby “denies existence to generations of the future.” Horrified, the Phoenix realizes it must revert to a non-sentient state and live only through Rachel. Before doing so in Excalibur #64, it gives Rachel this warning: “Do not be seduced by the infinite potential of life unborn. Take only from my strength. Accept its limitations.” Rachel takes the warning to heart and uses the power sparingly after being reunited with her friends. But still the Phoenix operates on a cosmic scale far beyond what most of Marvel’s characters can muster, and with several more years of experience would come the wisdom and skill to use it at its highest levels to do the greatest good. Plus, Rachel’s natural time-manipulation powers (what actually makes her a mutant) would enable her to sort out the Cable situation outlined above. Although in the Earth-616 continuity, Rachel eventually “lost” or was “rejected by” the Phoenix Force, in the Original Marvel Universe it remained as the Phoenix Force told her teammates in Excalibur #52: “One thing is certain. Now and forever, we are irrevocably merged.” With Rachel Summers, Franklin Richards, Topaz, and Wundarr assembled, there’s only one thing missing...


Sorceress (Jennifer Kale)
Even the awesome power of the other four members of this team might not save them from a mystical attack, as none of them has the slightest knowledge of magic. But Jennifer Kale, by now approaching 30 and with a decade of concentrated study of the mystic arts under her belt, would be the ideal candidate to serve as the team’s resident occult expert. Unlike many practitioners of the dark arts, Jennifer’s sunny personality and casual attitude would make her a good fit with her teammates. Of her potential as a sorceress there can be no doubt. As Dakimh the Enchanter says in Adventure into Fear #19, “young Jennifer’s name may one day be as hallowed as Zhered-Na’s own” and that “only greatness waits before her.” This is high praise considering Zhered-Na was still actively worshipped 20,000 years after her death. Furthermore, Dakimh was able to instruct Jennifer in the accumulated wisdom and occult secrets of three distinct ages of human civilization, and she even impressed Doctor Strange with her aptitude for magic. Therefore, along with Topaz, Jennifer Kale would be instrumental in the final defeat of the Hell-Lords and their demonic servants, and in freeing all the “souls” in their various infernal realms to finally enter the “Great Beyond.” Among those freed, of course, would be Thor. With this act, the Saviors prove themselves the ultimate superhero team—and live up to their name—because they not only save the living, they also save the dead.


Naturally, with such an awesome assemblage of supremely powerful do-gooders, the opportunities for exciting and dramatic superhero adventure tales kind of dwindle away. Without super-villains, the world of the Original Marvel Universe then becomes a fairly dull place, much like our “real” world. Which is why I consider the advent of the Saviors the end of the story for the OMU. While drama can be mined from any situation, and even a utopian Earth can give rise to adventurers (think Star Trek), it would be of such a different nature from what came before that it would almost be a separate thing unto itself. The Saviors represent for the Marvel Universe what some scholars term “the End of History.”

This is not, however, the end of our explorations of the late, lamented Original Marvel Universe!


Next Issue: The Last Avengers!