Monday, March 5, 2012

Mind control hyborean style: Kulan Gath's a bone to pick

Chris Claremont and John Byrne will probably always be identified with their fan favorite Uncanny X-men run. But they had actually cooperated on several books before taking on the merry mutants.

Today's entry in the annals of all things mind control hails from one of those early Claremont/Byrne collaborations: Marvel Team Up # 79, a delightful little tale of sweet talking, soul stealing jewelry and women warriors kicking butt in a thong made of prehistoric pennies.

A security guard in a museum falling under the spell of a mysterious necklace? Well, as far as generic openings go, this is about as bland as it gets... but its a perfectly serviceable way of kicking off the story. The guard gets mind controlled and tricked into putting on the necklace and all hell breaks loose as the entire museum is caught in a mystic blaze that can be seen from afar.

This curious fire also transforms the museum into an actual ancient Egyptian temple site, as Peter Parker discovers when he sneaks in dressed as Spider-Man to snap a few pictures for the Daily Bugle. Before long, he finds himself assaulted by the temple's legion of demonic guardians.

Right before he's about to get overrun, his ladyfriend Mary Jane Watson shows up. Never able to leave well enough alone, Mary Jane had followed him in and managed to get herself mind controlled by... a sword?

"And within that eldritch glow, Mary Jane Watson ceases to be"...
How right you are, Chris... because once she grabbed the sword, it was bye bye MJ and hello Comics Code approved slice of ginger cheesecake:

Penny for your thoughts, sailor... And no, you can't borrow them from her bra.

Mary Jane's body got transformed into Red Sonja, a character from Robert E. Howard's Conan: the barbarian mythos that Marvel had recently gained the publishing rights to. After the licensing deal ended, Marvel lost the rights to reprinting this tale for years, until  it appeared as a back up in the hard cover edition of 2007's Spider-Man/Red Sonja miniseries.

Be that as it may, Sonja the She-Devil was there and ready to help out Spider-Man.
Sidenote: in a nice little bit of added realism, neither one knew what the other was saying, since Sonja only spoke in an ancient Hyborean dialect.

No matter, all language barriers were torn down once the baddie of the book showed up, sporting that overly familiar necklace from page 1...

As far as origins go, this one's a doozy. Kulan Gath was an ancient devil priest who escaped death by transferring his essence into a dark jewel that in turn got mounted on a gold necklace. Anyone who willingly put it on was instantly taken over by Gath, whose magics also transformed their bodies to resemble his. 

Ah, do forgive that overly wordy piece of plot exposition... Kulan is far more eloquent in explaining this sort of shtick. 

Ah, do forgive that overly wordy piece of plot explanation just now... Kulan is far more eloquent in explaining this sort of shtick. 

Despite his somewhat goofy looks, he almost succeeded in killing Sonja and Spider-Man (who he kept referring to as Man-Spider for some unknown reason)... but during the fight, he was knocked out of the museum and on to the busy streets of modern day New York. 

"By the great python!" 

One can never be too sure if Kulan is calling on the elder god Set for help, or is trying to find comfort in the size of his manhood. Either way, the sudden change of scenery catches Gath off guard as he struggles to grasp just how how much the world has changed.

Imagine for a second how this scene might appear to the crowd gathered outside the museum, let alone to people at home watching the footage that newscrew is shooting. They have no idea what's been going on at the museum, the first thing they see is Spider-Man and a half naked woman knocking around an obviously frightened, elderly man.

Having him yell "And one more thing, bozo! Its not 'Man-Spider'... It's SPIDER-MAN!" ... as he knocks Gath out isn't the best move either. What does the crowd get from this? They just witnessed Spider-Man punch out an old timer because, by the wallcrawler's own admission, he didn't get his name right?

Good job Spidey... If that doesn't put to bed all those nasty rumours the Daily Bugle's been spreading about you being a menace... NOTHING will.

Still, Spidey's punch did more than just further wreck his public image. It knocked out Gath as well, which caused everything and everyone to revert back to normal.

After this particular caper, Peter realised the necklace was too powerful to simply leave on display at the museum and he decided to dispose of it.

"The wizard almost had my soul. But his amulet's at the bottom of the Atlantic now (...) It'll never harm anyone again."

Ah. Yeah. About that...

A few years later, in Uncanny X-men # 189, the Gath Gem popped up again when it was found by a construction worker called Jaime Rodriguez. He was able to withstand its demonic temptations. Unfortunately, on his way home, this happened...

Jaime's mugger was considerably weaker willed and Kulan Gath rose again. Unopposed, he was able to weave a spell that transformed Manhattan into his private Hyborean age island kingdom. Fortunately for Spider-Man, Kulan's not the type to carry grudges, thank the great Python....

... Oops.

No comments: