Sunday

OMW: Tamara of the Sisterhood

In another of our continuing series featuring the Obscure Marvel Women (OMW) of the Original Marvel Universe (OMU), we plumb the ocean’s depths for the tragic tale of a desperate survivor.



The woman called Tamara was born on an unidentified planet approximately 130 light-years from Earth. Though descended from primate-like creatures, her race evolved to exist in an aquatic environment, extracting oxygen from the water through gill slits located on the neck. The culture in which she lived was strictly gender-segregated, with males referred to as belonging to the Brethren and females counted among the Sisterhood. Though very passionate beings, and inclined to violence when highly provoked, Tamara’s civilization had nevertheless renounced warfare and embraced a doctrine of peace. The Sisterhood, in particular, was noted for its Creed of Forgiveness, which none had ever dared violate. Scientific endeavors were highly favored, and as a race they had achieved rudimentary interstellar flight capability. Tamara herself had, in her youth, studied geology and had participated in scientific expeditions onto the unpopulated land masses of her world. In the pursuit of her studies, she trained herself to be able to use her vestigial lungs to function in the exo-marine environment for a few minutes at a time. Upon reaching adulthood, Tamara entered into a sexual relationship with a leading member of the Brethren.

Sadly, Tamara and her people were living on a dying world, and their population was dwindling. In the face of certain extinction, their rulers decided to send an expedition into space to find another planet which they could colonize. Tamara’s lover was selected to lead this mission into the unknown, but her pleas to accompany him were refused, for the Sisterhood was expected to wait at home until the men had located a suitable world. Unwilling to accept this decision, Tamara decided to stow away aboard the ship, planning to reveal herself once the new planet was found.

Along with the all-male crew, the spaceship was also supplied with a number of monstrous semi-intelligent creatures collectively known as the Haab, which Tamara’s people rendered compliant with sedative drugs, kept in chains, and used for slave labor. Their culture had become completely dependent upon the servitude of the Haab, and even a mission into space such as this required the presence of these creatures. This proved a boon to Tamara, as it required areas of the ship outside the crew compartment to maintain a livable environment, thus allowing her to successfully hide herself aboard.

Unfortunately, as the ship approached Earth’s solar system, a mechanical failure in the propulsion unit necessitated an emergency crash-landing into the seas of this alien world. The hull was breached on impact, and after the ship settled on the ocean floor, the Haab escaped their pens and stalked off in search of food. Tamara, too, left the ship and stealthily observed the men as they disembarked to search for intelligent life. They soon came across a blue-skinned girl and a pink-skinned man who lived underwater as they did, and directed them to the nearby kingdom called Atlantis. However, as Tamara watched in sheer horror, a cadre of barbarous blue-skinned warriors, returning from some bloody campaign, attacked the hapless crewmen outside the city gates and slaughtered them all.

Fearing for her life and sickened by the carnage, Tamara fled as fast as she could swim. As time passed, she realized that these bloodthirsty aliens had doomed her entire race with their senseless violence. With the expedition lost, all who remained behind on her home world would surely perish. She alone had the power to save them, if she had the will to do what had to be done. And so, several months went by as Tamara spied on the city of Atlantis, trying to assess their level of cultural and technological development. Curiously, she also discovered that prolonged exposure to the environment of this alien world somehow increased her physical strength to an astonishing degree, and she found herself able to perform feats that no one of her race had ever achieved. With this enhanced strength came an unquenchable desire for revenge.

Eventually, Tamara allowed herself to be captured by an Atlantean patrol craft in order to get past the city’s outer defenses. She was taken before the kingdom’s elderly regent, Lord Vashti, who was overcome with guilt and shame when Tamara explained that his warriors had committed not murder but genocide. Vashti agreed immediately to order her spaceship to be repaired so that she might evacuate her people to Earth. While making an outer show of gratitude, Tamara secretly vowed to see her people settle in Atlantis after she exterminated its native population.

Weeks passed as the Atlanteans made her ship spaceworthy again, while showing Tamara every kindness and consideration. Nothing could dull the ache in her heart for vengeance, however. As the work neared completion, Tamara finally met the Atlanteans’ true prince, Namor, who returned from his self-imposed exile to defeat the last of the escaped Haab. She recognized him as the pink-skinned man she had seen just after the crash, and wondered at his unique coloring. Alone among the aliens, he impressed Tamara with his innate nobility and strength of will. In some ways, he reminded her of her slain lover. She was almost glad, then, when he left the city again, not yet ready to take up his crown, for it meant there was a chance he would escape the devastation she was about to unleash.

As Tamara made preparations for departure, the last surviving Haab was drugged according to her instructions and thereby rendered subservient again. She ordered the creature to steal whatever weapons it could find and hide them aboard the starship. Still, she could not escape the awareness that she was the first of the Sisterhood to break the Creed of Forgiveness. At last, she and the Haab boarded the ship and blasted off. Moments after launch, however, Tamara switched to manual control, turned around and attacked the city, destroying several of its spires with her purloined energy weapons. She was soon intercepted by Namor, who smashed his way through the hull and slew the Haab. Realizing she would never make it back to her home planet, Tamara activated the ship’s auto-destruct sequence in a last-ditch attempt to annihilate Atlantis. But, though he was caught off-guard by Tamara’s super-strength, Namor nevertheless managed to drag her from the ship just before it exploded harmlessly in the sky above.

Her schemes undone, Tamara surrendered and was taken back to Atlantis to face the judgment of Lord Vashti. When she argued that she sought only to avenge the Atlanteans’ act of genocide against her race, Vashti countered that she tarnished her people’s memory by abandoning their cherished ideals of peace. Overwhelmed by shame, Tamara prostrated herself at Vashti’s feet, throwing herself upon his mercy. He then convinced his ruling council to give Tamara a second chance, if she would agree to become Namor’s ward to learn the ways of Atlantis. Realizing she was now the last of her kind, marooned on this strange planet, Tamara accepted and was immediately granted Atlantean citizenship.

While exploring her new home, Tamara met an uncouth and lustful scout named Lorvex, who offered to give her a tour of the realm. However, after leading her into a remote cave, which he claimed was the sacred Grotto of the Ancients, Lorvex attempted to rape her. Tamara easily bested him with her super-strength and vented her rage while punishing him with a savage beating. Leaving him bound with his own belts, Tamara tried to find the city again, but soon lost her way. Before long, she became trapped in a net and found herself hauled out of the water onto a strange vessel, where she was astonished to encounter men who breathed air. Desperate to escape, Tamara tried to fight the air-breathers off, but after a few minutes out the water, she passed out. When she regained consciousness, she found herself trapped within a water storage tank inside the boat.

Many long hours passed as she was transported to one of Earth’s land masses, where these air-breathers made their home. Eventually, she was taken off the boat and forced into a larger water storage tank on wheels, which then rumbled across the land until coming to a stop in the bowels of a large building. There it remained for several days while a succession of air-breathers peered in at her and gibbered to each other in their incomprehensible language. Occasionally, a variety of fish were dumped into the tank with her, which she guessed was an attempt to feed her. She realized this offered her only chance of escape, and she formed a desperate plan. She would force her way out when the hatch was opened and then try to somehow make it back to the ocean. However, her escape attempt failed after she tried to elude her pursuers by crawling through a network of ducts, which only led her into a grand council chamber. There she passed out for lack of water, and awoke to find herself back in her prison. This time, however, she could see a muscular guard wearing a red cape and brandishing a fearsome warhammer. Soon after, Tamara was thrilled when Namor tried to rescue her, but her heart sank when the hammer-wielding guard drove him off.

Months went by while Tamara remained a prisoner of the air-breathers. She could only guess at the reasons they were keeping her there, and she grew to loathe them even more than she hated the Atlanteans. Finally, the Atlanteans mounted a full-scale rescue operation, but Tamara’s joy soon turned to fear when her liberator was not Namor but Lorvex, bent on getting revenge for the humiliation she had caused him. He marched her at gunpoint into a holding cell aboard his warship, then ordered his troops to destroy the air-breathers’ city. As the onslaught began, however, Namor stormed Lorvex’s ship to stop him. Lorvex threatened to kill Tamara by draining her cell dry unless Namor withdrew. Tamara tried to tell Namor that this would not harm her, but the cell proved to be sound-proof. Nevertheless, Namor ignored Lorvex’s threats and defeated him. He immediately freed Tamara and called off the attack, then forced his way into the air-breathers’ grand council chamber to chastise them for the act of war they committed by kidnapping Tamara, a citizen of Atlantis. Upon returning to the undersea kingdom, Tamara brooded over the fact that, even though Namor had called her abduction an act of war, he had refused to go to war over it, and furthermore, he had attacked Lorvex even though he could not have known her life was not in danger. This just confirmed her belief that Namor regarded her as, at best, a second-class citizen of his realm.

Soon after, as Atlantis celebrated Namor’s decision to finally reclaim his throne, Tamara merely felt more alienated and homesick. He seemed sympathetic, however, and Tamara admitted to herself that her esteem for Namor was growing. She encouraged his inclination to fetch his amphibious cousin, Namorita, from her home among the air-breathers, though Namor refused to allow Tamara to accompany him. While he was absent on this errand, however, Atlantis came under siege by an army of green-skinned, amphibious men under the command of a maniac calling himself Doctor Hydro. Tamara could not help but gloat to Lord Vashti that the destruction of Atlantis seemed imminent, revealing that she still blamed them for the death of her race. But, after the city’s defenses were breached and a savage war ensued, Tamara became disgusted by the poor showing the Atlantean warriors made while bereft of Namor’s leadership and took it upon herself to rally the troops. She seized a sword and led the Atlanteans in a renewed counterattack that turned the tide of the battle. When Namor and Namorita finally returned to join the fray, the forces of Doctor Hydro were quickly routed. Hydro himself appeared to be killed by a runaway warship, and the Atlanteans cheered their victory. Tamara could not escape the irony of being hailed as a great hero of the realm she detested.

As Namor considered what to do with their prisoners-of-war, Tamara was shocked by Namorita’s soft-hearted pleas for them to be allowed to take up residence in Atlantis. Though they deserved forgiveness, Tamara knew there was no place for them in a close-knit society like Atlantis. Unfortunately, the problem was only compounded days later after Namor finally defeated Doctor Hydro, who had escaped his seeming death by using his superhuman powers to enter a vaporous state. Namor trapped Hydro’s gaseous form within a hermetically-sealed canister and sentenced him to death by starvation. However, this meant that all the amphibians from the villain’s base of operations, the floating artificial island called Hydrobase, were now Namor’s responsibility. Among these unfortunates, who were mutated into amphibians against their will, was a middle-aged woman named Betty Dean Prentiss, whom Namor had loved in their youth decades before. Tamara found herself wondering if Mrs. Prentiss might know the secret to capturing Namor’s heart.

Before the amphibians’ status could be decided, Namor was called away from Atlantis for many months. Soon after his departure, Tamara persuaded Lord Vashti and the Council of Elders to build a prison camp outside the gates of the city to hold the amphibians until Namor’s return. The camp was a ramshackle affair where the amphibians were forced to live in squalor, and when Namor finally returned at the end of the summer, he was furious. Tamara looked on silently as Namor ranted about the atrocities of a long-ago war and a tyrant who had used such camps in his genocidal schemes. The angry monarch then tore down the barricades and immediately granted the prisoners their freedom to enter the city. Later, while Namor argued with his counselors, Tamara and Namorita discussed their opposing views on the matter.

The debate was cut short when Atlantis was visited by four aliens from another dimension who begged for Namor’s aid in defeating a vicious conqueror who had overrun their peaceful realm. Namor agreed to lend his aid and departed with the aliens aboard their golden submarine. In his absence, the Council of Elders declared that, until the issue was resolved, the amphibians would have to return to the camp, although the doors would no longer be locked. Tamara and Namorita agreed that this was an acceptable compromise, though Namorita announced that she would live in the camp with the refugees for the duration.

The golden submarine soon returned to Atlantis, but instead of bearing a victorious Namor, it brought the monstrous Queen Virago, who was intent on adding Atlantis to her dominions. Namor soon arrived and led his fleet of warships in driving her off. Exhausted, Namor ordered that preparations had to be made before they could hunt Virago down. However, the Council of Elders demanded a meeting, and as Tamara looked on, they blamed Namor for the threat of Virago, since he had agreed to meddle in Zephyrland’s affairs. Afterwards, Tamara offered Namor her full support, condemning his people for their short-sightedness. Suddenly, they saw what appeared to be a fleet of black ships descending on the realm, but Namor quickly realized it was actually an attacking force of killer whales under the control of his old foe Orka, who had joined forces with Queen Virago.

Namor and Tamara attacked the invaders, but the maddened killer whales still managed to wreak havoc on the buildings of Atlantis. Virago overpowered Tamara with a stunning blow while some of the killer whales had Namor cornered against a reef. When Tamara recovered her senses, Namor was nowhere to be seen and she found herself a prisoner of Virago and Orka, who then entered Atlantis as its conquerors. Seeing Tamara defeated, the Atlanteans immediately lost heart and surrendered. Within minutes, however, a scarlet miasma settled over the city, causing everyone around Tamara to choke, convulse, and collapse. Watching in utter horror, Tamara could only wonder if thousands of people were dying before her eyes. A moment later, she was the only one left in a silent realm. As she searched frantically for any sign of life among the drifting bodies, she guessed that only her extraterrestrial physiognomy had saved her. Suddenly feeling more alone than ever, Tamara realized that she had taken no joy in Atlantis’ sudden destruction, nor was revenge quite what she had imagined. She felt only an emptiness that sickened her.

Many hours later, Namor finally returned to Atlantis, wearing a strange black costume. Hearing his agonized cries, Tamara swam to his side and tried to calm him down. She told him of the poison cloud that enveloped the city, and felt a righteous anger flare in her breast as he blamed the air-breathers for the catastrophe. Then, filled with heartache, she watched helplessly as Namor went berserk and took out his rage upon the damaged structures around them. They were both astonished, then, when Namorita and the amphibians appeared, revealing that the toxins had not reached their encampment. Hope was rekindled when one of the amphibians called Dr. Henry Croft, formerly a professor of biochemistry at a university on the surface world, explained that the Atlanteans were not dead, but merely in some form of suspended animation.

After Namor had visited the Grotto of the Ancients to give thanks to his god, the survivors of the catastrophe met again in the refugee camp to discuss a course of action. Tamara concurred as they planned to take over Hydrobase in order to exploit its scientific resources in their search for a means to revive the Atlanteans. As the comatose population would be vulnerable in the meantime, Dr. Croft convinced Namor to seek out a colleague on the surface world whose research into force-field technology would provide a solution. While Namor went to contact the man, Tamara and the others set about securing the many victims in protective cylinders before the currents scattered them throughout the ocean. It was several days before all the citizens of Atlantis were accounted for.

In the wake of this disaster, Tamara found herself acting as Namor’s principal advisor and confidante. She urged Namor to act on his idea of proposing an alliance with the powerful air-breathing king known as Doctor Doom, and tried to soothe his wounded pride when the offer was rejected. Later, she helped Namor search for Orka and Virago when they broke out of their cylinders and disappeared. Finally, after several weeks of intense effort, the force-field projectors were successfully activated and Atlantis was sealed off from the outside world. Tamara joined the others as Namor led them to their new home on Hydrobase. As Tamara was the only non-amphibian among them, special quarters were prepared for her on the underside of the structure that were flooded with sea water. In the days that followed, she found her relationship with Namor deepening, as he increasingly turned to her for comfort.

Tamara was pleased when Namorita soon decided to return to the city of the air-breathers to continue her education, as she would no longer have to compete for Namor’s attention. Weeks passed, and Namor grew frustrated with the lack of progress towards a cure for his people, despite his risking life and limb to obtain whatever supplies Dr. Croft asked for. Tamara offered him her unconditional support and affection, and in time Namor consented to take her as his lover. In Namor’s bed Tamara sought solace for the overwhelming loneliness in her soul.

A year passed as Dr. Croft and his associates went about their research and Namor and Tamara pursued their sexual relationship. During that time, Dr. Croft succeeded in adapting a chemical the Atlanteans had used to breathe air for several hours at a time so that it would work with Tamara’s unique biochemistry. Subsequently, she could spend more time with the other residents of Hydrobase, and she came to know all the amphibians quite well. She also supported Namor in his decision to release the traitor Krang from his remote prison, hoping that Krang would put aside his ambitions in this time of crisis. However, the villain took the first opportunity to escape to pursue his mad schemes.

Then one day during the second spring following the catastrophe, while Namor was off renewing his alliance with Doctor Doom, the work on Hydrobase was interrupted when Tamara and the amphibians were captured and imprisoned by three of Namor’s foes: Attuma the barbarian and his air-breather accomplices Tiger Shark and Dr. Lemuel Dorcas. Attuma then forced the amphibians to design and build weaponry for him by holding their children hostage. However, knowing that one of their number, Dr. Joseph Jennings, had evaded capture and was still at large, Tamara helped Betty Dean Prentiss break out of the compound to find him. When the escape was discovered, Attuma ordered Tamara separated from the others to be interrogated under torture. Though she suffered greatly at the hands of Attuma’s sadistic inquisitors, Tamara refused to betray her friends. Finally, she was strung up and left to die when the chemical that allowed her to breathe air wore off. Namor arrived just in time to rescue her, and with the aid of Doctor Doom, he defeated the villains and freed Hydrobase. As Tamara recovered from her ordeal, Namor was very attentive to her, and she in turn helped ease his grief over the death of Mrs. Prentiss, who had been killed during the fighting. Dr. Dorcas had also died during the battle, but Attuma and Tiger Shark were imprisoned on the island, though both managed to escape within a few months.

About six months later, Tamara met the air-breathing adventure team the Fantastic Four when they brought grim news to Hydrobase: Namor had become Doctor Doom’s slave in order to spare Atlantis from destruction. Thus, Tamara and Namorita agreed to put aside their differences and join forces to lead a rescue operation into Doom’s kingdom of Latveria. Taking a heavily-armed submarine through a continent-spanning network of waterways, they infiltrated the small nation’s borders and discovered Doom lying at the bottom of a river, badly injured and his suit of armor compromised. Upon recovering, Doom attempted to convince his captors that Namor had come to Latveria to petition him to use his scientific genius to devise a cure for the amphibians, and that the Prince of Atlantis was his honored guest. Not sure whether to believe Doctor Doom or Mister Fantastic, Tamara suggested they continue on to Castle Doom to see for themselves. When no sign of Namor could be found, Tamara and Namorita took Doom back to Hydrobase to begin work on such a cure.

After meeting Dr. Henry Croft and inspecting the laboratory facilities on Hydrobase, Doctor Doom set to work as Tamara watched him, alert for any signs of treachery. However, after several hours with no apparent progress, Tamara and Namorita angrily confronted Doom, which led to an altercation that quickly descended into a stand-off. To their mutual surprise, the compound was suddenly invaded by another team of superhumans, the Avengers. Tamara was uncertain what to make of this unexpected development, but when the Avengers claimed to be out to get Namor and immediately attacked Doctor Doom, it lent credence in her mind to Doom’s assertion that he and Namor were allies. Thus Tamara leapt to Doom’s defense, flooring the Scarlet Witch with one blow. But when Tamara was momentarily startled by the Vision’s red skin, she left herself open to an attack by Yellowjacket and the Wasp. The amphibians soon joined the fray with their energy weapons and the Avengers were quickly defeated. Doom then had the team bound to a metal platform before interrogating Captain America, who revealed that they were the unwilling pawns of Attuma. Namorita convinced Doom that he must, out of self-interest, help them defeat Attuma before his barbarian hordes destroy Hydrobase.

As preparations were made for the coming battle, Tamara lingered by the captive Vision, wondering whether his red skin might mark him as a fellow survivor of her own race. But she quickly realized she was merely tormenting herself with hope in the face of the crushing loneliness she felt. She retreated to her private quarters as Doctor Doom and the Avengers agreed to join forces against Attuma. Later, Doom proved his villainy when he returned from the battle alone, carrying some weapon he had wrested from Attuma. Tamara and Namorita tried to stop him, but were no match for his armored might. Fortunately, the Avengers were hot on his heels and, after destroying the weapon, they forced Doom to retreat. Afterwards, the Avengers were able to convince Tamara and the disheartened amphibians that Doom never truly meant to cure them. Soon after, Namor finally returned to Hydrobase and he and Tamara resumed their affair.

Several weeks later, in the dead of winter, Doctor Doom returned to fulfill an oath he had made to Namor to revive the Atlanteans. Doom was now in Namor’s debt after the undersea monarch had saved him from a madman known as the Red Skull, and he was determined to honor the bargain. In a remarkably short time, Doom succeeded in counteracting the nerve gas and brought the entire population of Atlantis out of suspended animation. However, the Atlanteans soon discovered that, after the force field had been breached by Doctor Doom months before, Krang had assembled an army of villains to pillage the abandoned city. With Doom’s help, Namor and Tamara led their reawakened legions to drive out the invaders. Finally, to the cheers of his grateful subjects, Namor once more sat upon the throne of Atlantis.

But as Tamara returned from Hydrobase to take up residence in Atlantis again, her happiness soon turned to bitterness as Namor ended their relationship, believing that his subjects would never stand for their prince dallying with a woman from another planet. Devastated, Tamara could only question whether he had ever truly loved her. Cut off from the royal court, Tamara retreated into a private life on the fringes of Atlantean society. She often considered returning to Hydrobase to live among her amphibian friends, but this option, too, was taken away one year later when the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans discovered a means to reverse Doctor Hydro’s mutation process. Though Atlantis faced many calamities in the years to follow, Tamara never again took up arms in its defense.


First Appearance: Sub-Mariner #58

Final Appearance: Avengers #156


Notes:

When brought back for the Second Marvel Universe in 1992, she was called Tamara Rahn and her people had been dubbed the Banari. Like the stories that brought them, though, these later additions are considered non-canonical for my purposes here.



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