Ye Olde Hyborean X-Men

As promised last week, and since we're being exposed to a "fantasy" Marvel Universe through Secret Wars at the moment, let us look at the time a Conan villain called Kulan Gath (which you might also remember from a Marvel Team-Up starring Spider-Man and Red Sonja) turned Manhattan into a fantasy world and all our favorite heroes into D&D characters. It indeed happened, in Uncanny X-Men #190-191 (1985), as chronicled by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr. and Dan Green. It was "An Age Undreamed of".
Anyone caught in, or traversing into, this realm is turned into a fantasy version of themselves, losing all memory of their former lives and becoming the subjects of Kulan Gath, a sorcerous tyrant whose rule is enforced by the Morlocks, and hopefully opposed by the X-Men and Avengers caught into the spell. Spider-Man is immune for some unknown reason (as is the New Mutant, Warlock).
Gath is essentially trying to gain control of every super-human in Manhattan to squelch all dissent, and the first thing he did was neutralize the island's "wizards". Dr. Strange is made incapable of casting spells, and Professor X is merged with the more compliant Caliban to act as a mutant detector. But there's also Selene, the vampiric mutant Black Queen, who's trying to get her hands on Gath's magical amulet. The stage is set. In addition to seeing the characters redesigned as sword & sorcery characters, Claremont also slips in cute references to standard continuity, redressed to match the setting:
Cool name for a spell, but of course, X-Men fans know the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak in another context, don't they? By the second issue, it's all starting to feel like a What If as WELL as an Elseworlds, with characters dying all over the place, starting with Rogue, whose "darkling" power in this reality is having an invulnerable crystal form she can give away by touch. The gift proves uncontrollable.
And so it goes. Colossus and Vision blow up by trying to exist in the same space. Wolfsbane falls from a great height. Sunder gets his throat cut. And Kulan Gath stops Spider-Man's heart. In the end, Warlock combines with Storm just when Self is about to die, and together they stop Selene, now in possession of the amulet. Freed, Dr. Strange then uses Magik's time slip abilities to turn back the clock so none of this ever happened, Superman Movie-style.
Deus ex machina aside, the story captured my imagination as a teenager who was just getting into D&D, priming me for similar tales, like Busiek's original arc on Avengers, and yes, the current Secret Wars event. Anyone else fond of this old story?


Anonymous said...

I always enjoyed this story too. For me these issues were a bright spot in the title's slide to mediocrity.

- Jason

Siskoid said...

I kept going on the title for another 5 or 6 years, but I don't think we were necessarily in the slide quite yet. I think I'd call it 'round the time JRJR left the book and Silvestri came on? By Jim Lee, it was the pits.

Green Luthor said...

It's been a while since I read these issues, but my impression was that Spider-Man wasn't (necessarily) immune to Kulan Gath's spell, it's that Kulan Gath left Spider-Man "as is" as a way of getting revenge for the aforementioned Marvel Team-Up issue. (But I could be wrong about that.)

The funny thing about the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak is that, other than the Juggernaut connection, it was also a spell in Doctor Strange's repertoire since well before this issue. (I'm not seeing when, exactly, the Crimson Bands were first mentioned specifically, but Cyttorak was first mentioned Strange Tales #124, September 1964, whereas Juggernaut first appeared in X-Men #12, July 1965.) Kinda neat that that connection has been around for so long...

Siskoid said...

Yes, that's a reading that's consistent with what's on the page, though he is giving himself some extra trouble there.

That's true about the Bands of Cyttorak! I'd forgotten (mostly because there aren't a lot of Dr. Strange book of late). An odd connection.

Anonymous said...

Wow. That solves a big mystery for me! I remember collecting X-men in the 80's and not understanding what this issue had to do with anything that came before or after. A Secret Wars tie in. Never put that together! Thanks!

Siskoid said...

Well, I'm being a bit facetious there. It's a remote tie-in with what they're doing NOW with Secret Wars. It wasn't then.

It's really a sequel to Marvel Team-Up story, which is an odd segue for Claremont to make, to be sure.


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Orville Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine