Another in our continuing series featuring the OMW (Obscure Marvel Women) of the OMU (Original Marvel Universe). This is the story of a very young girl and some very old magic, a girl who, despite growing into one of the most powerful practitioners of white magic on Earth, never quite received her due.
Jennifer Kale was born in 1950 in Citrusville, Florida. When she was four years old, her brother Andy was born. At some point in her early teens, Jennifer and Andy were orphaned and went to live with their grandfather, Joshua Kale, at his remote farmhouse in the swampland outside Citrusville. Jennifer was fascinated with her grandfather’s many magic talismans and mystic texts, even though her growing interest in the occult led to her being ostracized by her schoolmates. Jennifer heard the rumors about a mysterious swamp monster called the Man-Thing, and believed him to be a creature of magic. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Jennifer convinced Andy to help her steal her grandfather’s most sacred text and attempt casting a spell out in the swamp. Unfortunately, despite her inexperience, Jennifer managed to conjure up a powerful demon called Thog, the Nether-Spawn, who then sought to punish them for their impudence. Following a battle in a local movie theater, Thog was defeated by the Man-Thing, who had been drawn into the conflict by his empathic abilities. Jennifer was shaken by the experience and felt deeply ashamed of the trouble she had caused.
A few days later, Jennifer confessed to her grandfather what she had done, but Joshua Kale realized that his sacred text, the Tome of Zhered-Na, could never summon an evil being such as Thog; therefore the true Tome must have been stolen previously and a book of black magic left in its place. Furthermore, he revealed to Jennifer that he was the leader of a sorcerous cult that traced its history back 20,000 years to the time of ancient Atlantis, and that their purpose was to guard the Nexus of All Realities, a pan-dimensional crossroads located within the swamp. Seeking revenge, Thog then kidnapped the Kale family, along with Jennifer’s boyfriend Jaxon, and tried to force the Man-Thing to kill them all. However, Jennifer managed to foil his evil scheme when she discovered she had formed a psychic link with the Man-Thing.
The Kales soon learned that the Tome of Zhered-Na had been stolen to render the cult powerless in the face of an invasion of Earth by the forces of Thog’s infernal realm, called Sominus. They recognized the corrupting influence of the extradimensional demons when a wave of bizarre, violent behavior swept the globe. Jennifer accompanied the cult into the swamp as they attempted to find the Tome through mystical means, but suddenly found herself transported with the Man-Thing to a strange world. There she met the wizard called Dakimh the Enchanter. The Man-Thing was sent to fight that world’s greatest gladiator, Mongu, in the arena. When the muck monster prevailed and Jennifer proved her defiant spirit, Dakimh sent both of them back to Earth. Later, the wizard appeared to Jennifer and revealed his true motives. Dakimh was in fact the last of the ancient disciples of Zhered-Na, made immortal by her two hundred centuries ago, and was one of the founders of Joshua’s ancient cult. He recruited Jennifer to accompany the Man-Thing on a mission to retrieve the stolen Tome, and when she agreed, Dakimh transformed her clothes into the sacred raiment of a priestess of Zhered-Na. Together, the Man-Thing and Jennifer succeeded in finding the Tome and stopping the demonic invasion.
Following the defeat of the demons of Sominus, however, Jennifer’s psychic link with the Man-Thing appeared to have been broken, and throughout the summer that followed, she felt depressed and anxious. She was plagued by nightmares that grew steadily more intense, and her relationship with Jaxon became strained as she retreated into herself. Jennifer’s condition continued to worsen after starting back to school in the fall, and Joshua began to fear for her sanity. Finally, in November, Dakimh returned to reveal what was happening to her, explaining that the cosmic balance that prevents the multiplicity of alternate dimensions from colliding with each other had been disrupted. Jennifer’s psychic potential had caused her to project her astral self into the Nexus of All Realities while she slept, where she experienced the dimensional chaos firsthand. Sensing her great potential as a sorceress, Dakimh then proposed to make Jennifer his apprentice, and impart to her all the mystical knowledge he had amassed during his 20,000 years of existence. With her grandfather’s blessing, Jennifer accompanied Dakimh to his lonely citadel, the Castle in the Sky, located in a realm known only as the Land Between Night and Day, where she once again donned her ceremonial garb.
Before her lessons could begin, though, the castle was attacked by a band of tyrants seeking to take advantage of the dimensional chaos to gain dominion over all reality. Jennifer was taken prisoner and brought to the council chamber of the so-called Congress of Realities to be executed. However, at the critical moment, she was rescued by Dakimh, who charged her and his other recruits, Man-Thing, Korrek the Barbarian, and Howard the Duck, with setting right the cosmic axis and restoring the normal structure of reality. They journeyed into the Nexus, but their efforts were disrupted when the Congress of Realities charged through the Nexus to invade the dimension of Therea, a pastoral paradise which stood in direct opposition to the hellish Sominus. The villains’ leader was then revealed to be Thog, the Nether-Spawn, but he was again defeated by the Man-Thing in hand-to-hand combat. Bereft of Thog’s leadership, the Congress of Realities fled, allowing Dakimh to repair the structure of reality. Jennifer accompanied Dakimh back to the Castle in the Sky to begin her training in the arts of sorcery.
Jennifer studied under Dakimh for one full year, until Korrek returned to enlist their aid in reclaiming the throne his enemies had usurped during his brief sojourn on Earth. Despite the Man-Thing’s help, the battle proved too strenuous for Dakimh’s ancient body, and he collapsed and died. Devastated by the loss of her mentor, Jennifer returned to the Kale family farm, where Dakimh’s body was buried. Furthermore, with her lessons barely begun, Jennifer lacked the knowledge to send Korrek home, and so the barbarian moved in with the Kales. Realizing that she had dropped out of high school to study with Dakimh, Jennifer felt completely adrift. She was overjoyed then, two months later, when Dakimh reappeared in a ghostly form, claiming that death was little impediment to a true master of sorcery. After sending Korrek home to his own dimension, Dakimh took Jennifer back to the Castle in the Sky to continue her education. A few months later, she celebrated her eighteenth birthday.
In February 1969, after her second year of training, Dakimh sent Jennifer to once again join forces with Man-Thing, Korrek, and Howard the Duck. Their mission this time was to stop a semi-demonic being called Bzzk’joh from spreading his vile influence throughout the universe. Though she was kidnapped and held prisoner by Bzzk’joh, Jennifer was soon rescued by her friends and they returned home triumphant. Shortly afterwards, however, while studying the Nexus, Jennifer and Dakimh were assaulted by the demonic entity known as D’Spayre. For several weeks, D’Spayre held them prisoner in the swamp and tried to corrupt their souls and make them slaves to his evil will. Though they resisted his malign influence, the cost, particularly to Dakimh, was great, for his spirit form could exist on the mortal plane for only limited amounts of time before he needed to retreat to Therea to rejuvenate himself. They were ultimately rescued by Spider-Man and the Man-Thing, who overcame D’Spayre, but Dakimh was so greatly weakened that he could no longer serve as Jennifer’s teacher. After promising to return one day, Dakimh disappeared, leaving Jennifer to her own devices. She went home to Citrusville, intending to continue her studies on her own.
However, that summer, Jennifer was again captured and held prisoner for several weeks, this time by the evil sorcerer Baron Mordo, who planned to open a portal that would unleash a demon horde upon the earth. Mordo’s intent was to use the Man-Thing, Jennifer, Andy, Joshua, Jaxon, and several others as human sacrifices to power his spell. All Jennifer’s attempts to escape or resist Mordo’s power proved futile. When the ritual finally began, Jennifer and the Man-Thing found themselves shackled to the center of a circular dais within an eldritch tower, her family and friends chained naked to obsidian slabs all around them. Though Jennifer dared to hope that deliverance was at hand when Doctor Strange, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, stormed the temple, his fight with Mordo carried them into another dimension. The victims were thus left undefended as a crystalline gateway began to open and a great demon hand reached out and snuffed out the lives of its victims one by one. Jennifer watched in horror, begging the Man-Thing not to honor his Faustian bargain with Mordo. Finally, the demon hand reached Jennifer and reduced her to a desiccated skeleton. Moments later, though, Jennifer found herself restored to life, along with the other sacrificial victims. Doctor Strange appeared and explained that Mordo was defeated and when the spell was broken uncompleted, the demon was forced to return the lives it had stolen. Doctor Strange encouraged Jennifer in her studies, but unnerved by her experience, she returned home with her family and debated whether to continue her occult education.
During that autumn, Jennifer worked to complete her G.E.D., and distanced herself from the mystic arts. Disappointed in his sister, Andy fell in with a bad crowd, a local motorcycle gang. Joshua became very disheartened. Then, in January 1970, Jennifer was sought out by a young woman named Barbara Bannister, who had heard the local lore that Jennifer was a witch. Bannister’s boyfriend, local sheriff John Daltry, had disappeared after falling victim to some sinister magic force, and Jennifer agreed to try to locate him. Her search was interrupted when the motorcycle gang attacked the Kale farm, looking to kill Andy for betraying them, but the bikers were routed by the Man-Thing and a mysterious stranger named John Kowalski, who turned out to be a modern-day Grim Reaper.
Soon after, Sheriff Daltry turned up, dressed as a pirate, and captured Jennifer with the power of his enchanted cutlass. She was transported to Sominus, where she found other mystics had also been taken prisoner, including Doctor Strange and a severely weakened Dakimh. To their surprise, Barbara Bannister came to the rescue, transformed by Kowalski into an angel of death. Daltry summoned his dread master, who turned out to be Thog, the Nether-Spawn, still seeking revenge on Man-Thing and the Kales. Despite his best efforts, Thog was again defeated by the Man-Thing, allowing Doctor Strange and Dakimh to transport all present back to the Kale farmyard. Jennifer’s reunion with Dakimh proved brief, as he immediately bid her farewell once again and withdrew to Therea.
Doctor Strange commended Jennifer on her progress, and she struck up an acquaintance with the other mystics who had been captured, the gypsy sorceress Margali Szardos and her daughter Jimaine, also known as Amanda Sefton. Inspired by their example, Jennifer resumed her study of the mystic arts and set up the attic in the farmhouse as her sanctum sanctorum. Doctor Strange assisted her with constructing the necessary mystic defenses to protect herself and her family. Jennifer then spent the next five years studying and practicing sorcery at home, while also exploring the Nexus of All Realities and assisting the Man-Thing in his role as its guardian. With access to over 20,000 years of mystical knowledge, she grew into one of the most formidable wielders of magic on Earth, though she intentionally kept a low profile.
However, in 1975, while investigating an unnatural maelstrom swirling through the swamp, Jennifer met the superhero known as Quasar, who was quite smitten with her. Together they battled the super-villain Quagmire, who used the Man-Thing’s body as a conduit through which to escape his home dimension. Following Quagmire’s defeat, Quasar asked Jennifer for a date and she agreed. Though their relationship was brief, it was through Quasar that Jennifer met other members of the superhero community, and she gradually established a reputation as a powerful sorceress. In time, she returned to the Land Between Night and Day and claimed the Castle in the Sky as her own.
First Appearance: Adventure Into Fear #11
Final Appearance: Marvel Comics Presents #29
Zhered-Na had worshipped the most powerful god of the Pre-Cataclysmic Era, Valka, who was almost certainly killed during the War of the Gods that ended the Hyborian Age some 10,000 years later. After this cataclysm, Dakimh the Enchanter transferred his worship to the gods of Therea, though he continued to preserve the Valkan teachings in the scrolls of Zhered-Na. The connection between Valka and the gods of Therea is unclear, though a connection is suggested by Zhered-Na’s prophesy of the invasion of Earth by the demons of Sominus. Rather than just being two random dimensions, Therea and Sominus counterpoint each other exactly as do the Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell.
Mongu, the gladiator of Sandt whom the Man-Thing battled, was clearly based on Mongu, the Soviet robot from Incredible Hulk #4, though the “in-universe” connection between the two was never explained. The extradimensional Mongu would also battle the Hulk, as seen in Hulk #211.