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.”



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!