Sinister Sorcerers and Sorceresses
Sinister Sorcerers and Sorceresses(pop culture)
Sinister sorcerers and bewitching sorceresses have been a mainstay of storytelling throughout recorded history. There are the pharaoh's court sorcerers in the Bible, the sorceress Circe in Homer's Odyssey, and the three witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth (circa 1606). Sorcerers and sorceresses abound in all forms of visual and written arts—be it in ballet, opera, fairy tales, children's literature. novels, comics, television, and film—testifying to their allure and popularity among children and adults alike. In the twentieth century, fantasy novelists created evildoers who used magic, such as Sauron and his ally, the wizard Saruman, of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955). As the genre's title suggests, malevolent sorcerers continually menace the heroes of sword and sorcery tales. The arch-foes of Robert E. Howard's heroes Conan and King Kull are, respectively, Thoth-Amon, a wizard from Stygia (prehistoric Egypt), and the skullheaded Thulsa Doom. Kulan Gath, the evil wizard co-created by Michael Moorcock in the comic book Conan the Barbarian #14 (1972), was resurrected in modern times to plague Spider-Man and the XMen. Inspired by fantasy novels and other supernatural tales, superhero comics writers have used sorcerers as villains almost since the genre's inception. In his first published adventure (More Fun Comics #55, 1940) the heroic magician Dr. Fate rescued his future wife, Columbia University student Inza Cramer, from the green-skinned sorcerer Wotan (created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman), who would become his recurring antagonist. Having lived for ages in a succession of bodies, Wotan seeks to conquer Earth or, failing that, to destroy it. One of the leading foes of the avenging spirit known as the Spectre is Kulak (created in All Star Comics #2, 1940, by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily), high priest of a world called Brztal, who has wiped out numerous civilizations on other worlds and seeks to do the same to Earth's. Kulak directs his mystical powers through his eerie third eye. In All-American Comics #26 (1941) Sargon the Sorcerer debuted as the hero of his own comics series, in which he repeatedly battled a sorceress known as the Blue Lama (who first appeared in Sensation Comics #68, 1947). Decades later, Sargon's occult Ruby of Life turned him into a villain, although he ultimately reverted to his true, heroic personality. The Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan's predecessor, Abin Sur, captured and shrunk the alien sorcerer Myrwhydden (created by Gardner Fox and artist Gil Kane in Green Lantern #26, 1964) and imprisoned him on a tiny world within the power ring that he gave to Jordan, who succeeded him as Myrwhydden's nemesis. Jordan teamed with the magician Zatanna in combating the Warlock of Ys (created by Fox and Kane in Green Lantern #42, 1966), the only known denizen of a dimension called the Other Side of the World. In Strange Adventures #187 (1966) June Moore became the Enchantress, who for years used her mystical powers as a champion of humanity, until she turned villainess herself, seeking to conquer the world. Two leading foes of the enigmatic Phantom Stranger are the seductive sorceress Tala (created by Bob Kanigher and Neal Adams in The Phantom Stranger #4, 1969) and her ally Tannarak (introduced by Gerry Conway and Jim Aparo in Phantom Stranger #10, 1970), who seeks to make himself immortal. Deimos (created by Mike Grell in First Issue Special #8, 1975), a high priest who practices black magic in the extradimensional “inner world” of Skartaris, is the foremost enemy of Travis Morgan, the warrior known there as the Warlord. Ages ago, before the sinking of Atlantis, its Lord High Mage, Arion, defended the realm against his nefarious brother Garn Daanuth (created in Warlord #59, in 1982 by writer Paul Kupperberg and artist Jan Duursema), who wielded virtually limitless mystical powers. Circe, the sorceress from Homer's Odyssey, was reintroduced as a foe of DC's Amazon princess in Wonder Woman #305 (1983). At Marvel, Jack Kirby portrayed Circe, whose name he spelled “Sersi,” into one of the super-powered heroines of his series The Eternals (1976–1977). The Latina sorceress known as La Encantadora (who debuted in Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-Page Giant, 1999) is neither a heroine nor a complete villain. Although she once carried out an assignment to poison Superman with kryptonite radiation, she is strongly attracted to the Man of Steel, and instead helped save his life. Through her enchanted Mists of Ibella, she can perform various mystical feats, which can affect even Superman, who is vulnerable to magic. In the Marvel Universe, evil magicians have most often been found battling “the Master of the Mystic Arts,” Dr. Stephen Strange. Umar, created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in Strange Tales #150 (1966), is the sister of Strange's archenemy, the dread Dormammu, but, unlike him, she has retained her humanoid form. Sometimes Umar is Dormammu's ally, but other times she is his enemy. Nearly equal to her brother in mystical power and villainy, Umar is also the mother of Strange's lover, Clea. Another Everett co-creation, Kaluu (who debuted in Strange Tales #147, 1966), studied the mystical arts side by side with Dr. Strange's mentor, the Ancient One, during the latter's youth, but Kaluu turned to the dark side of sorcery instead. Another of Dr. Strange's enemies, the magician Xandu, who wields the Wand of Watoomb and Sinister Sorcerers and Sorceresses The Supervillain Book 329329 was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, actually first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965), in which the doctor and the web-slinger teamed up for the first time. Once a cardinal in the Catholic Church, the man called Silver Dagger (created by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner in Doctor Strange #1, 1974) bears such fanatical hatred of sorcerers like Dr. Strange that he uses black magic himself in his attempts to destroy them. Another showcase for sinister sorcery is Marvel's Thor, especially the malign magic of the Norse thunder god's conniving foster brother Loki. One of his allies is Asgard's leading femme fatale, Amora the Enchantress, a beautiful sorceress who usually operated in partnership with the unusually strong Skurge the Executioner until the latter's demise. Both characters were introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Journey into Mystery #103 (1964). Another sensual sorceress created by Lee and Kirby, Karnilla the Norn Queen (in Journey into Mystery #107, 1964), sometimes sided with Loki and his forces of evil. But her love for the noble Asgardian god Balder could bring out her better nature, as in Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema's comics miniseries Balder the Brave (1985–1986). Lee and Kirby's Enchanters (from Thor #143, 1967) were a triumvirate with vast magical power, the eldest of whom, Forsung, rivaled Odin, King of Asgard, in mystical might. In the “Tales of Asgard” backup series in Thor #137 (1967), Lee and Kirby introduced the tyrannical Mogul of the Mystic Mountain, who, with his powerful “Jinni Devil,” was clearly inspired by the Arabian Nights. During his remarkable run as writer and artist on Thor, Walter Simonson created Malekith the Accursed in Thor #344 (1984), who rules the Dark Elves of the realm of Svartalfheim and possesses various magical abilities, including the ability to transform his appearance. Among Marvel's other malignant magicians is Zaladane (from Astonishing Tales #3, 1970), the high priestess of the Sun People of the prehistoric Savage Land, who is an enemy of Ka-Zar and the XMen. She claims to be the sister of Lorna Dane, aka Polaris of the X-Men.
The first Black Talon debuted in Strange Tales #173 (1974) and, after his death, was succeeded by another, who first appeared in Avengers #152 (1976). Both had mastered voodoo, enabling them to raise and command zombies. Modred the Mystic (from Marvel Chillers #1, 1975), a sorcerer from King Arthur's time who was revived from suspended animation in modern times, turned evil when he fell under the control of the primeval demon Chthon. Dr. Glitternight, from Werewolf by Night #27 (1975), was actually a mystical being who was exiled from his native dimension and sought to corrupt the souls of everyone on Earth. Before his apparent demise, he could generate mystical light from his chest in order to perform various magical feats. The nefarious warlock Nicholas Scratch is the son of Agatha Harkness, the kindly old witch who serves as the Fantastic Four's babysitter. Scratch once headed the secret community of witches and warlocks living in New Salem, Colorado. Scratch's children, now deceased, comprised Salem's Seven, who magically assumed super-powerful forms to combat the Fantastic Four. Scratch and his children debuted in Fantastic Four vol. 1 #185–#186 (1977). Finally, there is the strange case of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, whom Lee and Kirby introduced (in X-Men #4, 1964) as a reluctant member of Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. She subsequently turned superheroine as a member of the Avengers. Lee asserted that Wanda had a mutant “hex” power to alter the probability of events, but later Avengers writer Steve Englehart treated Wanda's power as true magic. Still later, writer Kurt Busiek established that Wanda actually had a mutant ability to tap into and manipulate “chaos magic.” Wanda eventually married her Avengers teammate, the android Vision, whose artificial nature prevented them from having offspring by normal means. Instead, Wanda utilized magic to enable them to conceive children, and she gave birth to twin boys. But Wanda eventually discovered that her “sons” were actually fragments of the spirit of the demon Mephisto. This was the main factor that drove the Scarlet Witch insane, leading her to turn evil and join Magneto in battling the Avengers. She subsequently recovered, but for years afterward Wanda's subconscious mind was altering reality in an attempt to recreate her children. The result in the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline (2004) was that Wanda suffered a mental breakdown and triggered a series of attacks on the Avengers that seemingly killed several of their members, including the Vision. This set up the House of M storyline (2005) in various Marvel series, in which the Scarlet Witch's powers have considerably altered history, radically (and temporarily, in most cases) changing the lives of numerous Marvel characters. Magical supervillains have also memorably appeared in television and film. In the realm of animated cartoons, cartoonist Carl Barks' sultry sorceress Magica de Spell slithered from the comics into the television series Duck Tales (1987–1992) to continue her attempts to steal Scrooge McDuck's lucky “Number One” dime. In Cartoon Network's Teen Titans animated series (2003–2006), the title characters have tangled with Mumbo, a retro-style villain in a traditional magician's costume who employs his magic powers to commit otherwise old-fashioned robberies. In another Cartoon Network series, Samurai Jack (2001–2004), created by Genndy Tartakovsky, the title character's arch-nemesis is the shapeshifting sorcerer Aku. In Judd Winick's The Life and Times of Juniper Lee (2005–present), the title heroine battles various supernatural threats including the witch Auntie Roon. In live-action TV, producer Dan Curtis' daytime supernatural serial Dark Shadows (1967–1971) featured an array of evil sorcerers, most famously Angelique, the beautiful witch who cursed the hero, Barnabas Collins, to become a vampire for spurning her love. For nearly three decades there was no other successful television series that dealt with supernatural villainy until Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003). The long-running series included numerous villains who practiced magic, such as Richard Wilkins, the mayor of Buffy's town of Sunnydale, the malevolent occultist Ethan Rayne, and even Buffy's friend Willow, a “good” witch who temporarily became the evil “Dark Willow” (echoing X-Men's Dark Phoenix). In Buffy's TV spin-off Angel (1999–2004), a sinister law firm, Wolfram & Hart, dealt in the practice of black magic. The WB network's series Charmed (1998–present) features three sisters who are good witches who battle an array of evil sorcerers and demons. From their early history movies have also featured evil witches, such as in the Swedish film Witchcraft through the Ages (1922). They have also appeared in fantasy films for family audiences, such as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Queen Bavmorda in Lucasfilm's Willow (1988), the title characters of The Witches (1990), Lord Voldemort and his allies in the Harry Potter movies (starting in 2001), and the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), based on C. S. Lewis' novel. (Oddly, evil male sorcerers appear far less often.) Throughout the studio's history, many Disney animated features cast magicians as their villains, starting with the Wicked Queen and her other self, the Old Witch, in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). The most imposing and iconic of Disney's magical villains is the sorceress Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty (1959). Other evil Disney magicians include the shapeshifting Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone (1963), the sea witch Ursula in The Little Mermaid (1989), and the wizard Jafar in Aladdin (1992). In the twentieth century the mad scientist largely supplanted the role of the evil magician in popular culture. But the enormous success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books and the film adaptations of Tolkien's work suggest that in the twenty-first century the sinister sorcerer has made a comeback.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.