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?