Friday

OMW: Victoria Bentley

We conclude our series of portraits of the Obscure Marvel Women (OMW) of the Original Marvel Universe (OMU) with an aspiring sorceress who found the secrets of the occult far easier to master than the peculiar alchemy of love.

Victoria Bentley

Victoria Bentley was born circa 1940 in London, England, to Sir Clive Bentley and his wife. Unfortunately, Victoria’s mother was killed during the relentless bombing of the city by the Nazis, leaving Sir Clive to raise his daughter on his own. A noted mystic who was immensely wealthy, Sir Clive had amassed an impressive collection of occult artifacts, and as she grew, Victoria was curious about these objects, particularly a massive jewel known as the Crystal of Bas-Lyoness. Her father often performed dangerous occult experiments with the assistance of their butler, Edward Catherwood, but Victoria had little direct involvement in these pursuits. After the war ended, Sir Clive spent considerable time in New York City, leaving Victoria at home with the servants, where he collaborated with another collector of occult antiquities, Dr. Kenneth Ward. In 1952, Sir Clive died, leaving Victoria a teenaged orphan. On the advice of the family solicitor, Victoria dismissed all the servants except Catherwood and a cook, closed up the castle-like Bentley Manor, and took up residence in a modest cottage on the family estate. Victoria busied herself with her education and gave little thought to her father’s dusty collection of mystic treasures.

Ten years later, Victoria felt an irresistible compulsion to finally return to the manor house, where she became embroiled in a mystical duel between two sorcerers, an American called Doctor Strange and a Transylvanian named Baron Mordo. After saving Strange’s life, Victoria watched in amazement as the two men faced off, their weird battle finally ending when Mordo vanished in a puff of smoke. She questioned Strange about Mordo’s claim that she possessed untapped potential as a sorceress, but Strange refused to take her on as his disciple. Instead, he cast a spell to suppress her memories of the encounter and departed. Nevertheless, Victoria found her interest in the mystic arts rekindled, and she undertook a study of the occult on her own. Catherwood was delighted to give her the benefit of his experience, so they reopened the manor house and began unpacking Sir Clive’s artifacts. Victoria also began driving her father’s 1930s Duesenberg roadster.

In February 1964, after making only very limited progress in her studies of mysticism, Victoria suddenly found herself able to wield the powers of sorcery with ease. Catherwood warned of a pervading aura of evil, but Victoria became seduced by the dark side of her nature and ignored him. She left England and traveled to Transylvania to join a cabal of sorcerers known as the Circle Sinister. Together, they performed a ritual that released Baron Mordo from his imprisonment in another dimension. Doctor Strange appeared and battled Mordo, and in the process, siphoned off all the black magic that had empowered Victoria and the other members of the Circle Sinister. Victoria struggled to free her mind of Mordo’s evil influence as the villain defeated Strange and banished him to another dimension. At Mordo’s command, Victoria returned to England to await further instructions.

A few days later, Victoria attempted to mystically probe her own mind, and thus pierced the veil over her memory. She finally recalled clearly her first encounter with Doctor Strange and Mordo sixteen months before. No sooner had she done this than she was suddenly swept through a mystical vortex to a terrifying dimension known as the World of the Million Perils, where she was menaced by gigantic creatures. Doctor Strange quickly came to her rescue, but they immediately found themselves in the presence of a bizarre apparition in the sky calling itself Nebulos, Lord of the Planets Perilous. Strange managed to convince Nebulos that he had to rid the earth of Mordo’s excess magical power before the Living Tribunal demolished the planet, so the entity lent Strange his Staff of Polar Power to use as a weapon against Mordo. Strange dematerialized, and Nebulos sent the very confused Victoria to another world, to be held hostage until the mystic staff was returned.

Upon arrival, Victoria was imprisoned by a megalomaniac named Yandroth, the self-styled Scientist Supreme, and held in a cell within his high-tech command center. Yandroth repeatedly declared his intention to make Victoria his queen as he planned his campaign of interplanetary conquest, but she insisted she would rather die than marry a man like him. Finally, Doctor Strange once again swooped in to rescue Victoria, but Yandroth was able to delay the sorcerer long enough to get Victoria to his teleportation chamber. The two of them dematerialized before Strange could reach them, and reappeared in the mind-boggling landscape of the Dream Dimension. Though Strange followed close behind, Victoria was soon overwhelmed by fear. A huge reptilian monster and a group of murderous Vikings on horseback terrorized her until Doctor Strange succeeded in defeating Yandroth. Victoria and Strange were then transported back to Earth, arriving safely at the remote Tibetan temple of Strange’s master, the Ancient One. The memory of Victoria’s frightening experience soon faded from her mind like a bad dream.

Spending over a week at the Ancient One’s retreat, Victoria realized she was falling in love with Stephen Strange as they recuperated from their ordeal and got to know each other better. However, before she could determine if Strange returned her feelings, she was magically transported home to England by the Ancient One. Over the next several weeks, Victoria hosted a succession of grand parties at Bentley Manor which became the talk of London, though she was mostly trying to distract herself from the vague memories that still haunted her. During one such soirĂ©e, she was contacted telepathically by Doctor Strange, who then teleported her to his Sanctum Sanctorum in New York’s Greenwich Village. Victoria’s romantic hopes were dashed when Strange explained that he needed her help to rescue an otherdimensional princess called Clea from a mystical netherworld, for she could see in his eyes that Strange was in love with this Clea. Nevertheless, Victoria agreed to help and followed Strange through an interdimensional portal to the Realm Unknown. There, they both became prisoners of the dread Dormammu and his sister Umar, the demonic rulers of Clea’s native realm, the Dark Dimension. However, Strange soon broke free, and Victoria could only watch brokenhearted as Doctor Strange and Clea were reunited.

The sorcerer cast a spell sending the two women to the safety of his Sanctum Sanctorum on Earth, where they met Strange’s manservant Wong. They were interrupted by a brash intruder, a former colleague of Strange’s named Dr. Charles Benton. While Wong dealt with the obnoxious man, Clea led Victoria to the Orb of Agamotto, located in Strange’s study, in order to view what was happening in the Realm Unknown. They discovered that Doctor Strange was hopelessly trapped and Dormammu was about to break through the barrier to Earth’s dimension. The two women channeled what mystic power they had through the Orb to plant a suggestion in Umar’s mind that freeing Strange would serve her own self-interest. Clea’s gambit was successful, enabling Strange to catch up to Dormammu and prevent his invasion of the earth. Doctor Strange then returned to his Sanctum Sanctorum and, after an unpleasant confrontation with Dr. Benton, collapsed into a chair, exhausted. Watching from the shadows, Victoria pined for Strange’s love while he was busy with Clea, who was now exiled to Earth.

After receiving a telegram from an English nobleman and minor mystic called Lord Nekron, Strange decided to accompany Victoria back to Great Britain. They made the transatlantic trip by conventional aircraft, and Victoria was glad for the chance to spend some time with Strange away from Clea, though he remained distant and preoccupied. They drove out to Lord Nekron’s estate in Victoria’s vintage Duesenberg, and found Nekron dressed in a sorcerer’s garb. He invited them to dine with him in his lavish banqueting hall, and, despite their suspicions, Victoria and Strange accepted. After drinking a glass of drugged wine, Victoria grew dizzy and faint, then passed out with Nekron’s wicked laughter ringing in her ears. When she woke up, Strange assured her that Nekron was no longer a threat. Strange drove Victoria home, then departed inside a mystic sphere. Victoria was pricked with jealousy, knowing that he was going home to Clea.

Four months later, Victoria met a handsome American named Dane Whitman, who had inherited Garrett Castle on an estate adjacent to her own. Victoria felt immediately attracted to Whitman, but convinced herself he merely reminded her of Stephen Strange. A few weeks later, she invited Whitman to a masquerade ball at Bentley Manor, and he came dressed as the Black Knight, an American superhero who had recently begun fighting crime in London astride a flying horse. Victoria was startled when all her guests except Whitman suddenly vanished into thin air, but she was reassured when she saw the astral form of Doctor Strange hovering over them. Strange recruited Whitman, who really was the Black Knight, to help him battle a mystical entity called Tiboro. After the heroes departed, Victoria’s guests reappeared, but she excused herself from the party to establish a temporary mental link with Strange that would help the two men find their way back to Earth following Tiboro’s defeat.

Over the course of the following year, Victoria and Dane Whitman got to know each other better, and, as she was privy to his secret identity, she occasionally assisted him with his crimefighting crusade. She was especially impressed with his horse Aragorn, a genetically engineered white stallion with Pegasus-like wings. However, Victoria kept their relationship strictly platonic, as she was still carrying a torch for Stephen Strange. Finally, in September 1965, Dane Whitman suddenly vanished without a trace. Victoria feared one of the Black Knight’s enemies had killed him until Doctor Strange finally contacted her in November to report that Whitman had been turned to stone by an Asgardian sorceress known as the Enchantress. Strange had taken Whitman’s petrified form to his Sanctum Sanctorum in hopes of reversing the spell. Victoria agreed to look after Garrett Castle in Whitman’s absence.

Victoria continued to dabble in the mystic arts, but without a proper teacher, she made little progress beyond learning how to use the Crystal of Bas-Lyoness as a scrying stone. However, she received a sudden psychic flash in April 1966 that revealed to her that Doctor Strange was engaged in apocalyptic combat with the extradimensional demon Shuma-Gorath. Her crystal later revealed that Shuma-Gorath’s link to the world had been severed, but the Ancient One, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, had died during the battle. Victoria realized that Doctor Strange would inherit that title, and so her hopes of ever winning his heart dwindled. Still, she could not forsake the love she felt for him. To honor her promise to Strange to take care of Whitman’s estate, Victoria eventually found it necessary to mortgage her own properties to buy Garrett Castle and its land before it was seized by the government for non-payment of taxes.

Victoria next saw Doctor Strange in the summer of 1969, when he called to ask for her help with a mystery involving Dane Whitman’s petrified body, which had resisted all efforts to reverse its transformation. She met Strange and Clea at Garrett Castle to assist them with their mystical preparations. Victoria watched as Strange plunged Whitman’s enchanted sword, the Ebony Blade, into a ceremonial brazier, which flared magically to life. Then he and Clea levitated in the lotus position, communicating telepathically. Victoria found the ritual to be unsettling, as it had been years since she witnessed actual sorcery. She went to deal with the delivery men who were dropping off the crate containing Whitman’s stone form. Then, overtaken with curiosity, Victoria opened the crate to look at her unfortunate friend and was startled when the statue suddenly came to life, hideously animated by a demon called Ningal. While Doctor Strange engaged Ningal in fierce mystic combat, Victoria panicked and pleaded with Clea to intervene, but Clea merely placed a spell of silence over Victoria’s mouth. Angry and humiliated, Victoria knew she would never forgive Clea for treating her in such a manner. After Ningal’s defeat, Victoria went home in a huff, leaving Strange and Clea to solve what was left of the mystery on their own.

Unwilling to remain defenseless against such magical abuse, Victoria redoubled her efforts to gain at least a basic mastery of the mystic arts, relying more and more on Catherwood’s experiences with her father. She believed that only by tapping her latent potential as a sorceress could she be a true rival to Clea for Strange’s affections.

About two-and-a-half years later, Dane Whitman finally returned to Garrett Castle, free of the curse of the Enchantress. Victoria welcomed him home, but Whitman was not pleased to learn that she now owned his entire estate. Worse, Whitman was virtually penniless and had no means to reclaim his property. He became increasingly reclusive and rebuffed Victoria’s attempts to renew their friendship. She was also disturbed by his new flying steed, a black horse named Valinor with great bat-like wings that fairly reeked of black magic. Victoria was so preoccupied with Whitman’s declining mental state that she was barely aware of the meteoric rise to power of Sir James Jaspers, who was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in a landslide victory.

In the early months of 1972, Victoria grew increasingly concerned about the state of affairs in England as Prime Minister Japsers instituted radical new policies aimed at eliminating the perceived threat from people with superhuman powers. Against all reason and common sense, no one protested as martial law was declared and armored stormtroopers called “Beetles” began incarcerating large numbers of suspected superhumans in concentration camps. The national economy collapsed, sending society into a tailspin. Stranger yet, time itself seemed to come loose from its moorings, with events sometimes even seeming to happen out of sequence. Victoria was uncertain whether weeks or months had passed when the Beetles finally came to arrest her. Trapped within the reality-twisting Jaspers Warp, Victoria was unable to contact Doctor Strange for help.

In the concentration camp where she was imprisoned, Victoria soon met two telepaths, Betsy Braddock and Alison Double, both of whom suffered terribly as the Jaspers Warp reached its maximum effect. Suddenly, however, the phenomenon dissipated and reality slowly began to repair itself. Released from the camp, Victoria found it was already September. She invited Betsy and Alison to stay with her at Bentley Manor until they were fully recovered, and they gratefully accepted her offer. Victoria soon realized that all memory of the Jaspers Warp, and even of Sir James Jaspers himself, was quickly fading from the minds of the general public. However, her main concern was Dane Whitman, who was now teetering on the brink of insanity.

After a few weeks of trying to deal with the situation on her own, Victoria finally called in Doctor Strange for help. Using the Eye of Agamotto, Strange determined that Whitman was suffering a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, made worse by the enchantments on his Ebony Blade. Victoria learned that, while his body was turned to stone, Whitman’s mind had traveled back in time to inhabit the form of his 12th-century ancestor, where he fought in the Crusades for several blood-soaked years. Immediately after returning to life in the 20th century, Whitman had been whisked off into an otherdimensional war to save Camelot. Through a form of mystic combat, Strange helped Whitman overcome the curse of the Ebony Blade and regain his mental health. Victoria was relieved, but she also realized that she loved Stephen Strange much more than she could ever love Dane Whitman, even though Whitman was clearly attracted to her. Thus, she did not object when Whitman decided to return to America with Strange, planning to rejoin the Avengers. Instead, she devoted herself to taking care of Betsy and Alison until they finally went home eight months later.

In 1974, Victoria came to believe that Doctor Strange was dead, having been killed while battling a mysterious being known as the Beyonder. She had clear memories of traveling to New York to attend his funeral. However, on a dark and stormy night, she learned that Strange was in fact alive, though he had been forced to turn down the path of black magic. He appeared to her, emerging from a bolt of lightning, looking shaggy and unkempt, wearing an eyepatch and a demonic talisman in place of the Eye of Agamotto. At first, she mistook him for a demon masquerading as her deceased love, but quickly came to realize the awful truth. Strange babbled about an enemy, a battle, a demon army he had raised, and ancient evils he had loosed upon the world. He claimed to have allied himself with the evil sorcerer Kaluu, but they lacked the power to defeat their enemy. Immediately, Victoria offered Strange all that she had to give, and he took it, brutally and ruthlessly. She collapsed to the ground, utterly drained of all her magic. As Catherwood rushed to her side, Victoria watched as Strange disappeared into the sky, surrounded by his army of demons. The two bewildered Britons turned to see Bentley Manor, with all the occult artifacts it contained, consumed in a raging inferno.

Following the destruction of Bentley Manor, Victoria wasted away until finally succumbing to a catatonic state. Catherwood checked her into the Hotel Resplendent on England’s southwest coast, hoping she would find the sea air restorative. Eventually, Doctor Strange returned, having defeated his ancient enemy, to make amends for his treatment of Victoria. The Eye of Agamotto revealed the dark forces that had filled the void within Victoria when Strange stole her white magic. Only by lowering his mystical and psychological defenses could Strange help Victoria reject the darkness and finally come to terms with the pain of her unrequited love.

The following year, Victoria learned from the Crystal of Bas-Lyoness, which Catherwood had salvaged from the rubble of Bentley Manor, that the sixth-century sorceress Morgan Le Fey was hatching a plan to escape the netherworld to which her spirit had been consigned and transform the earth into her own “Dark Camelot.” Therefore, Victoria and Catherwood traveled to America to enlist the aid of the Black Knight. Unfortunately, Dane Whitman had again been transformed into a living statue months before, this time under the curse of the Ebony Blade. Although they were unable to cure Whitman, their magic ritual allowed his form to be animated by the spirit of the original Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia, who was more than happy to once more oppose Morgan Le Fey and her wicked nephew Mordred. With the help of Doctor Strange, Captain Britain, the Valkyrie, and an Irish orphan named Sean Dolan, the Black Knight and Victoria succeeded in preventing the villains from taking over the world. In the course of the battle, Dane Whitman was freed from his sword’s curse and became flesh-and-blood again. He finally declared his love for Victoria, and she consented to a romantic relationship.

Victoria moved in with Whitman at a castle he had inherited from his uncle, Nathan Garrett, located in the United States of America. Catherwood accompanied her, still serving as butler, as did Sean Dolan, who was intent on being the Black Knight’s squire. Not long after, they all helped prevent Arthur Blackwood, a murderous maniac calling himself the Crusader, from assassinating a moderate emir on a diplomatic mission from the Middle East. Whitman then once again renewed his association with the Avengers, and Victoria took a position at the Metaphysical Institute in New York run by Doctor Strange’s friend Sara Wolfe.

Although she still loved Stephen Strange, Victoria Bentley accepted that they would never be together and decided to find contentment in her relationship with Dane Whitman. She also dedicated herself to developing her skills as a practitioner of the mystic arts, seeing that as her true path to fulfillment.


First Appearance: Strange Tales #114

Final Appearance: Avengers Spotlight #39


1 comment:

  1. Victoria Bentley’s death in 1993 occurs outside the scope of the Original Marvel Universe, and is considered non-canonical for my purposes here.

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