A Marvelous Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
I Am the Fantastic…Reborn!
Hell is not always hot. Despite what countless preachers have told their loyal congregations, Hell is not entirely a land blasted by flame and ruled over by pitchfork brandishing devils. Sometimes it is cold, sometimes crowded, and other times utterly devoid of any thing, living or dead.
In the deepest portion of Hell, those who committed an act of betrayal are sentenced to be tortured eternally. Among the twisted forms of such noted men like Judas Iscariot, Cassius, and Brutus, lay another man. His body was weak and pitiful. His emaciated form was chained to a huge chunk of ice, tucked away so far that even the most vigilant of demons gave him no notice.
That was something the man had planned on.
Gingerly lifting his head, the man's lips opened slightly in a grin. He winced in pain as the skin cracked open and bleed freely, but that was enough. Slowly twisting his arm, his hand slipped out of the iron that bound him to the ice. Moving as fast as he dared, he freed himself from the glacier thanks to a small sliver of rock and started to crawl away. He made it two footsteps before his blistered and bloody hands fell across a well-polished pair of boots.
The owner of the boots looked down at the man and smiled. The man felt no reassurance at the sight. "Well, Dr. Druid, I'm surprised. I really am; I mean, how many times have you tried to escape?" Damien Hellstorm, otherwise known as Lord and Absolute Ruler of Hell, chuckled at the sight of the man cowering before him.
Dr. Druid inched back. His weak skin tore away in chunks as he moved around on the blasted rock. "No, I repented! I don't belong here!" He babbled as he scrambled back.
Damien sighed as stepped past Druid. "Really Anthony, this isn't a bureaucracy. If someone is here, then they deserved it. And you, my dear Dr. Druid, deserve to be here more than anyone."
The man known formerly as Dr. Druid looked the ruler of Hell directly in the eye. "I want a second chance!"
"And you got it, as well as a third, a fourth, and a fifth. Each time you gave in to a new temptation. If I return you to life, and I won't, you would just end up here again. No Druid, I think I'll keep you right where I can see you. Maybe I'll just have some of the lower minions tear off your feet so we don't have to go through this again."
A fire, or something close to a fire, sparked off in Druid's eyes. "No, everyone else has returned, and so shall I!" He staggered to his feet. He grinned madly as Damien simply looked bored.
"Really? And how do you plan on going back?" He causally leaned on his trident.
"The direct way!" Druid laughed madly as he threw a fistful of rocks and dirt into Hellstorm's eyes. The ruler of Hell coughed and stumbled backwards as Druid rushed forward and snagged the trident. Laughing even louder, he raced towards the nearest wall and hurled the trident into the stone. The weapon struck and rang loudly as the stone and rock wavered and formed into a portal. Druid dived into the portal headfirst, his laughter echoing as the portal closed.
The trident struck the ground with a clang as Hellstorm wiped his eyes clear. With a gesture the weapon flew from the ground and into his hand. "Perfect" he muttered under his breath as he silenced the curious glances around him with one look. "I was beginning to think I would have to throw that fool out of here myself. Now, if only he can go without screwing things up."
In the land of the living, otherwise known as Earth, there was a quiet monastery tucked away in the Himalayas. To a casual observer, there was nothing amiss with the old building. Situated deep within the mountain range, anyone foolish enough to have came that far would have been discouraged by the miles long gap that separated the monastery from the main land. However, if anyone had been looking directly at the ancient looking building, they might have felt a strange chill go through them that would have been quickly credited to the cold.
Anthony Druid, formerly the living Dr. Druid, burst onto the snowy mountain with a wild scream. His body steamed as he floated inches off of the ground. "Even as a spirit, the Ancient One might be able to sense me. I must be quick," he thought as he floated over the chasm and towards the only lighted window.
Passing over the abyss, Druid floated his way up to the window and peered inside. He felt a strange tingle as his hands touched the old building, but he passed it off as one of the current resident's means of protection. "You should have been more thorough old man. Your weak spells might keep away the living, but you never planned on the dead, did you?" Druid thought to himself as he easily slipped inside.
The room was vast. Hundreds upon hundreds candles lit the room. Druid floated in and carefully looked around. True, he was dead and a ghost, but the quarry he was hunting could still handle both of those conditions. A small figure down at the other end of the room made him smile as he caught sight of his target.
Quietly floating behind the sitting figure, Druid raised both his spectral hands and began to speak a language that had long since vanished from the world of the living. Before he could even say the second syllable, the sitting figure raised one wrinkled hand and Druid was quickly bound, gagged, and kneeling before the wizened old man before he could blink.
"Anthony. Always a pleasure when a former pupil visits" the old man known only as the Ancient One spoke. With the slightest of gestures, he made the gag vanish from Druid's ghostly mouth.
"You rotten old man!" Druid raged as he struggled against his bonds. "Am I cursed?"
"Every man has the gift of free will Anthony. You were given a prestigious title and powers, yet you let them slip away from you."
"Lies!" Druid snarled. " I was selected first! You hand picked me to be your successor, then you tossed me aside for that foppish drunk!"
The Ancient One's face grew stern. "I selected you, yes, but you were never meant to hold the title of Sorcerer Supreme. I judged you worthy enough to hold the powers of Droom, yet your pride cost you those gifts."
"More lies!" Druid raged as he broke the spectral bonds and lunged for the Ancient One. "If I kill you, then you will never have a chance to ruin my life!"
The Ancient One, who did not earn that title by being foolish, made a simple gesture with one hand. Druid stopped mid-flight as a sphere formed around him. He floated in place as he pounded on the smooth insides with his ghostly hands. The Ancient One simply stood up and gently pushed the prison aside. "Again you disappoint me Anthony. You think I am not aware of what the future holds? That I am so uncaring as to willing damn a man to unspeakable torment? You were meant to be the protector of the Earth, Anthony, of this realm. The Sorcerer Supreme must guard a much larger sphere."
Druid heard what the old man was saying, but his thirst for vengeance blinded him. "And that must be me!" He screeched as he flailed inside the sphere like some kind of bubbling liquid
The Ancient One dropped the sphere. "And who are you to dictate the flow of destiny? Anthony, I am sorry about your fate. I truly am, but killing this mortal shell before my time would do nothing but harm the very fiber of existence."
Druid stopped his thrashing. "Are you going to send me back?" His tone was fearful, and the Ancient One picked up on that as he gently rolled the prison into another chamber and brought it to a stop in the center of the room.
"No Anthony, I would never do that. Sending you back would accomplish nothing." The old man spoke softly as he picked up a particularly dusty scroll and began to unroll it. Before he spoke the incantations printed on the brittle yellow paper, he looked at the ghostly form of Anthony Druid. "I will send you someplace Anthony, or to be more accurate, some when."
Druid looked confused as the Ancient One began to speak in a tongue that was ancient before Atlantis sunk beneath the waves. Druid could no longer feel anything, but that didn't stop a shiver from going down his spine. The sphere that bound him suddenly started to shrink. "Master, what are you doing?" Druid pleaded as the area began to decrease rapidly. "Please, don't do this!"
The Ancient One continued his spell as the sphere continued to shrink. As Druid screamed out for mercy, a blinding flash of light filled the room from some unseen source. When the light faded, all that was left standing was the Ancient One. He mumbled a small prayer as he left the chamber. "May he find redemption, for all of our sakes."
May 1st, 1961
"Deborah, time to get up!" came the familiar cry. Deborah "Debbie" Whitman stifled a groan as she forced herself up from the peaceful slumber. Fumbling for her glasses, she stared in bleary-eyed confusion at the early light peeking in through her closed curtains.
"Coming Daddy!" She shouted back as she dragged herself from the comfort of the warm bed. Staggering from the twisted sheets, she rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she put on her glasses. "Can't be late" She thought to herself as she rummaged through her closet. Finding a matching blouse and skirt, she quickly shucked off her nightgown. Just before she could put on underwear, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
Deborah sighed as she stared at herself. Granted, she was eighteen, but strictly going on looks alone she could have passed for a junior high student. "So what? It's not like there are any nice boys in this town anyway." She thought with disgust. "Only idiots and morons." Shaking those thoughts away, she put on her clothes and headed downstairs.
Breakfast was normal. Eating quickly, Deborah had barely digested her waffles and bacon before the school bus drove up. Gulping down a glass of orange juice, she hurriedly kissed her father on the check and snagged her backpack before dashing out the door. Making it onto the bus just before the door closed, she made her way to a window seat as the bus speed off towards school.
"Hey brainy!" came a familiar voice. "I saw you jogging there. What's your hurry, got a date with a test tube?" Deborah didn't even bother to turn around. The voice in question belonged to Susan Goodman. Everyone had his or her opposite, and Deborah's was sitting behind her. Tall, brunette, and a body like Marilyn Monroe; Susan was everything Deborah was not, which was a fact that she felt the need to comment on daily. After nearly four years though, Deborah had learned just to tough it out. Susan would get bored after a few minutes and leave her alone.
Everyone else did.
The rest of the day went by in a typical blur. Deborah took her usually spot in the front for most classes and answered when called on. By this point, she had learned not to attract any attention to herself. Lunchtime was the usual antics, but there was at least one respite from the drudgery of the public school system.
His name was Biff Rifkin. He was tall, built like a linebacker although he wasn't on the football team, had a face like Dean Martin, and currently didn't know she was alive. She had tried to get his attention, but guys like Biff didn't talk to girls like her. She had to settle for sneaking peaks at him eating lunch from across the room.
The ringing bell snapped her back to reality. Placing her unfinished meal with the rest of the trays, she shuffled back to class. As she made her way towards her next assignment, she felt a strange tightness in her throat. Her eyes stared to water as she found herself gasping for breath. "Uh-oh, looks like Ms. Wallflower is going to be sick!" she heard a sniggering voice coming from somewhere. She was dimly aware of someone ordering her to report to the nurse's station before the tiled floor came rushing up to greet her.
"I can not accept this."
Druid cursed long and hard as he saw where the Ancient One had sent him. His successor, his one shot at true redemption, was now currently incapacitated due to her lunch. Floating freely over her bed, he shook his head in exasperation. "You are to be my pass into the divine realm? A mere girl?"
Below him, the frail young woman mumbled as she tossed and turned on the cot. "Who are you?" She mumbled with her eyes close.
Druid floated down near her as his curiosity grew. "Hmm, if she can hear me, then maybe she does have some skill after all. Perhaps what I need is the proper conduit."
Floating away, he lifted himself high above the school and surrounding area. "Hmm, there is some mystic force here. Weak, but I think I can manage something. I'll have to find out where I am later though" he mentally filed off that question as he was drawn towards an area not far from the school grounds. Deep within a shaded grove, he found a small pile of rocks. Thrusting his spectral hand down through the closet one, he jumped back as an image of the Ancient One sprang up from the ground and loomed over him.
"Ah, Anthony. I was beginning to wonder when you would locate this crystal."
"What is this old man, more of your tricks?" Druid demanded.
"In a way, yes. Buried beneath these stones is a crystal. The crystal itself has only a faint amount of magical energy imbedded in it, however it possesses enough for your purpose. You said so yourself that you needed a proper conduit. The crystal can function as such until you and your student have reached the proper level."
Druid was not impressed. "And how exactly am I to do that? I can't touch anything, and I doubt that twig of a girl is going to be able to do the necessary digging."
The Ancient One was not perturbed at his former student's remarks. "Indeed, this is quite a problem Anthony. You were always a smart, if lazy, pupil, so you should be able to figure it out on your own." And with that the ghostly image of the Ancient One vanished.
Druid fumed as he floated back up into the sky. A plan was already forming in his mind, but the question would be, how could he go about doing it?
Druid would get his answer later. He had watched Deborah Whitman all day, through her boring class lectures and the torment she suffered at the hands of her peers, until she was finally free of the wretched school. Seeing her walking by herself towards the bus, he decided on his plan. As she walked out of the door, he hovered near her ear and whispered. "Ignore these fools. Go into the woods, and you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams!"
Deborah felt strange. A buzzing filled her ears as she exited the school and made her way towards the bus. The buzzing increased the more she walked, making her light headed. Her vision swam as she felt herself walking away from the bus and towards the woods that neighbored the school. It was a fairly common shortcut that the students took, so she wasn't surprised when no one called after her.
The buzzing lessened the more she walked, but only when she took a certain direction. It was like she was being guided through the woods. She walked further into the interior of the woods until the buzzing stopped entirely. "How strange. I hope I'm not getting sick again" she thought, as the idea of being ill in a area where there was little foot traffic did not appeal to her. The buzzing started up again as she neared a small pile of rocks. The buzz increased until it was roaring in her head. She felt blood trickle out of her nose as she dropped her books. "What's happening to me?" she gasped as she fought for breath.
"Dig you stupid fool! The greatest power in the universe is at your command, and you're being felled by a nosebleed? I have battled hero and villain alike, and I never once gave up simply because of some foolish physical weakness!" Druid raged as Deborah fell to her knees near the stones. He caught himself as she slumped over. "Wait, what are you doing? She can't hear me, and she can barely perceive me. There must be a way that I can communicate to this girl."
Looking around, a smile crept onto his intangible visage. He floated away as he eyed the trees surrounding the prone girl. "Oh course, the trees!" Thinking back to his days studying under the Celtic druids after the loss of his original powers, the deceased Druid cackled as he floated towards the nearest tree. Chanting a language that would be quite unfamiliar to the now stirring Whitman, Druid's ghostly form settled into the closet tree and started to manipulate the ancient branches from within.
Deborah shifted on the grass. The buzzing and the pain suddenly stopped, but that hardly explained their cause. She was about to stand up when a tree branch suddenly started to move. "What on Earth?" she jumped back as the branch twisted around. There was no breeze, but even if there was it couldn't account for the branch's movements. It pointed towards the closet stone like a finger. "What going on here? Is this some kind of trick?" She had visions of her classmates leaping out from behind the trees and laughing at her. The branch reared back and thrust forward again, pointing at the stone.
"You want this rock?" She asked, and felt intently stupid for having done so. The branch jabbed again, so with a shrug she grabbed the rock and lifted it. The branch immediately snapped back to its original place as she struggled with the heavy weight. Tossing it aside, she was about to write the whole experience off as a daydream when she caught sight of something glistening in the Earth.
It seems that the stone had been placed over a small crystal, a locket, and a ring. "Wow, buried treasure!" Deborah exclaimed as she reached into the pit and took the items out. The locket and ring looked old, but they were secondary to the crystal. It was just a tiny sliver, but it felt warm to her touch and gave off a faint glow. Tucking all three items into her book bag, she rolled the stone back into its previous position and started back to her house.
Druid witnessed the girl finding the items. "Hmm, I didn't know there were other items buried under that rock. I could use them later as well. Perhaps I should wait before making my move. The Ancient One sent me back, but he couldn't have sent me back to my own past. What has been done can not be undone." Looking down at the town that stretched out around him, he floated away from Whitman and concentrated on the people walking the streets. "Judging from the clothes and cars, I am in the past. Perhaps I could warn myself not to travel to the east."
No sooner had he thought those words than the face of the Ancient One appeared over the sky above him. "No Anthony Druid, for if you even attempted such an act, even I could not save you from total damnation!"
Druid shrank in fear at the grim face. "Very well, I will leave the tampering of time to you. But answer me this, when am I if not in my past?"
"You are in a past Anthony. The role of Droom is meant to be a catalyst, the thing that ushers in a new age. This world is different than your own, in ways both large and small. Since your mortal form has been judged unworthy to wield the power, another has been selected to usher in this new age. Normally the teacher of Droom is someone such as myself, but since you wish to be redeemed Anthony, I have delegated this duty to you. Train that mortal girl into the hero that this world needs, and your sins shall be forgiven."
"But take heed Anthony. Should you try to subvert this honor, or in some way use the power of Droom for your own selfish ends then there will be no hope. You will be damned forever, and not even my skills will be enough to save you."
Druid floated silently over the town. "Very well. I will train this girl. Unlike you, I will actually help her to overcome the evil the exists in the shadows and in the hearts of mortals."
"Careful Anthony. Your power is greatly diminished, and it would not be wise to make idle threats."
Druid said nothing as the face faded away. "Very well. If Ms. Whitman is to be my replacement, then I must make her a suitable one."
Later that night
Deborah sighed as she sat down at her desk. She blew through her homework, but the whole time she was working she felt a strange tugging at her mind to take the things she found in the woods and look at them. After bathing and laying her clothes out for the next day, she still felt the urge. "This is crazy," she thought as she opened her closet and pulled her school bag out. "I probably just imagined the whole thing. Strange rocks don't glow, and trees certainly don't point at things." Rummaging through it, she gasped when she saw them.
The crystal was glowing, and quite brightly. It felt warm to her touch; so warm in fact that she dropped it when her fingers brushed against it. "What is it?"
Running to the bathroom, she snagged a towel and ran just as quick back to her room. Her father was downstairs watching the news, and she didn't feel like explaining to him what she was doing. As she bent down to pick up the crystal, the buzzing in her head stared up again.
Had Druid any sort of physical sense to his spectral being, he would have been tapping his toes in boredom. "I haven't all eternity to wait you silly strumpet." He fumed as he saw Deborah pick up the crystal and hold it close to her face. "Hmm. The Ancient One said that crystal could act as a conduit." Druid began to concentrate on the crystal. "Open your mind to me young Whitman, and see through my mind's eye."
Deborah was about ready to put the crystal down when the glowing suddenly increased. She tried to shield her eyes from the glare, even going so far as to drop the thing and step away from it. She tried to call out to her father, but she couldn't form the words. Slinking back from the light, she closed her eyes and groped for the door.
She heard a strange voice call to her. The light was blinding at this point, but she was fairly certain she was the only one in the room. "Who's there?"
"A friend Ms. Whitman, simply a friend."
The voice had an accent, Boston maybe, but the light made it impossible to see. Judging from the direction, the speaker must have been standing right in front of her. "I don't have any friends".
"That much is true, but I can assure you I am the exception. What I am about to show you may seem shocking, but I can assure you, this is the truth."
Deborah summoned enough courage to try and squint. "What are you talking about?" She started to say, but she struck dumb as the light suddenly shot forward and pierced her eyes.
Before her, Deborah saw images. They were as clear as a motion picture, but she couldn't understand how she was seeing them. The images took definite shapes and she saw things that she didn't think were possible:
-Four people, in some sort of ship, becoming more than human
-A creature, born of the desert and man's own destructive genius
-A man, who was suddenly smaller than any living thing save for an ant
-A woman wielding a weapon of a god
-a spider who walked like a man
-A forgotten hero returning.
All of these images and more flooded her mind. She saw a council of men praying before the dark and something wet crawling amid candles. "What's going on?" she gasped.
"The future, or to be more precise, a future. You see Ms. Whitman; your world is entering a new age. The old order changeth, etc., and you have been chosen to be the harbinger of this new era."
"You're crazy!" Deborah shouted as the images started to speed up until they were all a blur.
"Once, but I can assure you I am now very sane. Ms. Whitman please, I beg you, try to understand that you are needed. This power that I offer is important. Without someone to wield it, those visions you saw may not come to pass."
"Well, then why can't you use it? You seem to know much more about this type of thing than me."
"Very astute. I did, in fact wield this power. I, however, proved to be unworthy. My punishment then is to find and bestow these powers on someone who is." Sensing her trust waning, Druid stepped through the wall and appeared before her. "I am asking you to undertake a great thing. There will be pain, and the journey will not be a simple one. Should you succeed, you will have helped make the world a better place. Will you accept?"
Deborah started at the man as he appeared before her. He was tall, balding, and had a piercing gaze. She didn't totally trust him, but what if he was right? Before she even knew what she was saying, she stepped forward and thrust her hand out. "Alright, I'll do it."
The figure, which she just noticed was transparent, smiled and stuck his hand out in return. "Excellent. Deborah Whitman, I transfer unto you the powers and title of Droom."
Druid surrounded Deborah's frail hand with his intangible one as he spoke. As the words left his ghostly mouth, he could feel the Ancient One's presence around him. The power, the old power that was once his and his alone, flooded his being. For the briefest of seconds, Anthony Druid almost felt alive as the power flowed through his being and into the unsuspecting form of Deborah Whitman.
Deborah felt like she had gripped a live wire. Searing heat went through her hand and into the rest of her as she saw the ghostly figure take on a more solid shape. She broke contact, however, as the heat suddenly turned to pain and settled in her chest. "God!" she gasped as she struggled to breathe. Falling to her knees, she saw the room spinning as she tried to straighten herself upright. "What did you do to me?" she choked out as the room's colors started to bleach out and invert.
"Steady child, steady" Druid warned as he watched her change. "The powers of Droom come with a price."
"Why" she begged, "didn't you tell me before?"
"Because someone must use them, and that someone is you. The pain is necessary I am afraid. It will prepare you for the upcoming battles. "
Deborah tried to scream as she saw her skin grow paler. She was already pale from having spent a lifetime indoors, but her arm was turning white as pure snow. As she writhed in agony on her carpet, her hair flipped down over her face. Her normally blond locks were darkening. They soon become an inky black. Her face burned as she crawled over to her dresser. Gripping the edge, she hauled herself up and nearly screamed at the sight before her.
The person in the mirror looked vaguely like her. The hair, once short, combed, and blond, was now long, tangled, and black. Her skin was alabaster. Her face, though, was the strangest thing. Her basic facial features were unchanged, but she did see a few alterations. Her nose, once small and almost upturned, was now longer and more pointed almost like a beak from some strange species of fowl. Her eyes had grown larger, but they now had a pronounced slant to them. The pupils took the attention away from that, however, as they had become larger and blacker than her hair. "My God, what did you do to me?"
Druid walked over to a nearby chair. He gave it an odd look before shaking his head and turning back to face her. "I underwent a similar change myself the first time. Do not fear, under my tutelage you will soon be able to mask your appearance."
Standing up, Deborah turned and stared at the ghost. "Mask? You made me a freak! Turn me back!" she shouted as she balled her fists and swung at Druid. He sighed as her fists easily passed through him.
"I am already dead my dear. Physical force rarely works on the deceased."
"Deborah, honey, what's going on in there?"
"Oh no, it's my father! Quick, change me back!" Deborah pleaded. Druid smirked and raised his hands.
"No need to. Watch and learn" Druid smiled as he uttered a smile phrase. The knocking stopped midway.
"What did you do?"
"Simple. I froze him." Seeing the look of horror on her face, Druid explained. "In time my dear, in time. That way we can have a better talk without the fear of interruptions. When we are finished I will remove the spell and your father will only be aware of a few seconds passing."
"I…guess that's ok."
"Alright, let's begin with the basics."
And so time ticked by. Druid cursed to himself that the Ancient One had not allotted him more power, but that was moot by this point. Deborah had proven herself to have some limited understanding of magic.
"Mystic binds that control and cage, let my face then rearrange!"
"That was terrible." Druid would have audibly sighed if he had physical lungs. "Ms. Whitman, magic is not unlike a higher form of science. Any fool can do it, but it takes a certain kind of fool to do it well."
"Well, then what kind of fool am I?"
"One that is quickly trying my patience." Druid looked funny to Deborah, like he was talking to someone else. But she couldn't see anyone in the room with them. "Wait, perhaps a fuller immersion is in order. I've already unlocked the door, as it were, so what do you say to a little test? Something where you can summon the powers that have already been unlocked, but require acts and feelings as opposed to spells and chants?"
Deborah looked at the ghost uneasily. "Alright, but what would I have to do?"
"Follow me outside. I will meet you in your backyard." Druid said as he floated up and away.
Deborah paused long enough to gaze at her reflection before continuing forward and opening her door. She stifled a shout of surprise as she saw her father standing before her door with a curious expression frozen on his face. Quietly slipping by him, she hurried down the steps, only stopping to slip on a pair of slippers before she went out the backdoor.
In front of her was Druid, floating above the grass with that same blasted smirk on his face. "Alright, I'm here. How what?"
Druid said nothing as he vanished. Before she could comment, the ground surrounding her feet suddenly burst into flame. "Holey Hannah!" she shouted as she leapt back from the flame. She noticed that the fire stayed away from the house as it grew and concentrated on keeping her within a very set perimeter.
Just as she trying to figure a way to escape, the ground began to rumble. The rumbling increased as a massive paw burst forth from the ground and landed in front of her. She numbly noted that the paw was connected to an equally large arm. The limb, which was quickly joined by another that was in equal proportion, ripped away large chunks of the Earth around her as the body that the two arms were connected to freed itself from the ground.
At first, Deborah thought the giant creature was some form of ape. The arms suggested as such, as did the head and torso. But as she saw lower body, she changed her mind. In lieu of a normal two legs, the back end of the creature was feline in nature. Its fur was golden in color and a long tail trailed behind it. The creature was roughly the same size as her house as it exited the hole.
"What on Earth is that?" she stammered as the creature stood up on its hind legs and gave out a strange roar.
"A gorlion. Now deal with it." Druid's voice echoed in her mind
Looking around, she could see the flame had enclosed them in a makeshift arena. The fire seemed to be sentient, as it quickly blocked off any avenues of escape. The gorlion roared again as it shook the last bit of dirt off of itself. The beast eyed her with black-rimmed eyes, as it seemed to be sizing her up. Whiter as a snack or as an enemy, she couldn't tell. Holding her hands up in what she hoped was a peaceful gesture, she was rewarded with the beast rearing back and slapping her.
She sailed through the air and landed with an impact several yards away. The fire had put itself out as she landed, but she saw the flame starting up again as she scrambled to her feet. "Alright, let's think this thing out" Deborah thought to herself as she made it back inside the fire area. "Druid said this was the type of exercise that would require feelings and acts. So what? Am I suppose to get angry so I can toss lighting bolts around like a second rate Blackstone?"
"Not quite, but your emotions can help or hinder you." Druid's tone made him sound like one of her science teachers. "Call upon them, let them flow. Use all of them, not just the negative ones."
"So I should be happy now?" Deborah shot back as the massive beast took another swipe at her. She barely avoided the crushing blow.
"Maybe. I know I wouldn't be in your position. Pick something from that brain of yours. Pick it, visualize it, and you will feel the power flowing through you. Unleash it, or don't. Tell me how to defeat this creature."
"I'm getting tired of this!" Deborah snarled as the monster roared. "Alright, this is a test, but of what, my powers or my character? If I kill this beast, will I fail?"
When she heard no answer, the pale girl decided to go with her own inner voice and no one else's. "This beast is just a beast. I won't destroy it until I know of its evil intent, but I can allow it to run free." Hearing the beast howl again, she noticed that the fire had singed the creature's tail. "Wait, maybe the gorlion isn't my enemy." She ignored the creature as she started to focus on the fire that caged them both. Drawing on her emotions, she felt the fire around her suddenly weaken. "It's incredible, it's like the flame is a part of me!" she wondered aloud as the flame slowly died out. She felt the fire as its power decreased. Inside she felt like she had just been crying for five hours straight. As the flames died down, she turned her attention to the gorlion.
The creature just stared at her. Deborah decided to take the initiative and duck under its massive paws and run under it. Once she had cleared it, she turned back around and faced the monster. She held her hands up and tried to recreate the same emotions she felt when she put out the fire.
Instead, she felt the creature's mind open up to her. Her vision swam as she felt her mind occupying the creature's and her own. The gorlion was mostly mindless, but the sheer size of the beast made Deborah feel like she had slipped into something that was too big for her. She feared about getting lost inside the cavernous mind when she heard the tell-tell voice again.
"Well done Ms. Whitman!" Druid said as she struggled to move. "It took me months to manipulate my astral self."
"Great, now how about helping me back into my old body?" Deborah shot back as she felt her connection with her physical form growing weaker by the second. In a flash, she found herself being sucked out of the gorlion's body and thrust back into her own.
"Your attempts to control the beast was a noble gesture, but you must take care in the future. Your astral self can possess bodies, but by doing so you are leaving your own form unguarded."
"I'll keep notes." She said dryly as she flexed her fingers and marveled at just how unreal the sensation felt to leave her body. "So did I pass?"
"You didn't die, and for someone in my company that is an accomplishment in unto itself."
"Yes, but did I pass your stupid test?" Deborah found herself losing what little patience she had left.
"This was merely an opportunity to see how well you used your abilities. The actual test will be how you confront the menaces that are to come."
Deborah felt anger swelling inside her as she heard the tone. "Look, I never asked for this! Now if you are going to continue this farce, at least tell me how to change back!"
"Easy, look down."
"What?" Deborah looked at her fingers and found her digits had regained their normal fleshly tone. "How?"
"Easy, you thought of yourself as how you used to be, and thus you became it. It's an easy trick to learn, but a hard one to master." Druid appeared before her. "I think these went rather well for a first lesson. We shall continue training later." Before Deborah could voice a complaint, Druid started to fade from sight. "I would suggest you return to bed before my spell wears off" were the last things she heard before the ghostly image faded entirely away.
Deborah stood still for a moment as she looked around the yard. Whatever damage had occurred had simply vanished. The grass showed no signs of being burned, and the ground was as undisturbed as when it was yesterday.
Silently making her way back to her room, she passed her father. He was still frozen in mid-knock. Once she had slipped past him and closed the door, everything unfroze. "Deborah?"
"Are you ok?"
"Yes Daddy, I'm fine. I just tripped, that's all."
"Well be more quiet next time." With that, she heard him walk back down the hall towards his room.
"I can't believe it." She said as she flopped down on her bed. Glancing at the carpet, she picked up the crystal. As her fingers touched it, she noticed her skin had turned white again. " I don't believe it!"
"As I said, easy to learn and hard to master." Druid's voice came from her mirror.
"I can't go to school looking like this!" she struggled to keep her voice low. She doubted she could explain her new looks to her father.
"True. The other items you found, are they still in your possession?"
"Yes, I put them right here." Deborah rummaged through her backpack and retrieved the locket and ring.
"Excellent. Those will make for fine tools. Ms. Whitman, I want you to do as I say. First, put both those items near the crystal and step back."
Deborah did as he said. She heard a chanting coming from the mirror and watched in amazement as the crystal once again gave off a glow. The light increased as it did once before, but when it died down she was shocked to see the crystal had broken in two, with each piece affixed to both the locket and the ring.
"These will be the new methods of communication. The ring shall enable you to change back and forth, at least until you show mastery over your powers. The locket will act as a form of radio. Keep it, and I will be able to contact you silently. We wouldn't want your friends and family to think you're talking to yourself."
"So that's it? After all you've done to me, that's it?" Deborah slumped back on the bed. "I have to play hero and look like a freak?"
Druid sounded cross as he reappeared before her. "Ms. Whitman, I can assure you this arrangement hardly suits me either. But we have both been thrust together, so I suggest we try to cooperate with one another. There shall be tough times ahead, and you are going to have to master your abilities if the world is to survive."
" I don't want to be a hero!" She tried to sound defiant.
"And neither did I. Sometimes the role of protector is thrust upon those who are not the most obvious choices. You have the duty Ms. Whitman and the power to carry it out. The Earth must be safeguard."
"What about those visions? Will those heroes be any help?"
"Some of them. Others will fear you. Your job is to make sure they come about."
"And I do that by just existing?" Deborah sounded confused as she placed the ring on her finger. Just as Druid said, her appearance shifted back to the way she used to be. Putting the locket on her dresser, she leaned back on the bed and closed her eyes. "It all seems like a dream."
"Well it isn't. This world is slightly different than the one I came from, but you are going to face many of my old foes as you start out on my path. The other heroes shall come. Think of it as a pebble creating large ripples across the surface of a lake." Druid waited for a comment, but the gentle sounds of Deborah sleeping were the only things coming from the bed.
"This may not be Hell, but I am starting to wonder if I was really better off." Druid wondered as he floated out of the room and into the night sky. "She did show some skill, and her powers could be equal to mine if I can train her in time."
"That's the question, is it not Anthony?" the all too familiar voice of the Ancient One rang out in his mind.
"She seems to have accepted our offer, but I am not sure if I can keep her from the path that I once walked."
"You must Anthony, for both your sake and hers."
"It will be difficult, but with assuming I can match the teachings that made me what I was, she will be more than equal to the task."
"I see your pride is back in full force Anthony. Be wary of it."
"I intend to, but answer me this, when shall I know when she no longer needs me as a teacher?"
"That we shall find out together." The Ancient One's voice faded away, and Druid realized that he was alone, at least from the old man's direct gaze. Keeping his tongue still, the man that was once Anthony Druid, hero and villain, healer and killer, floated over the house of the young woman who was about to usher in a new sterling age for this particular Earth.
"Be ready Ms. Whitman," he thought as he viewed the quiet little town in the moonlight. "For here there be monsters."
Well, here's the first issue of what will hopefully be a fairly interesting read. Now, I know all of this may seem strange, so allow me to explain and explore the backgrounds of the cast for you.
Also known as Dr. Droom and Anthony Ludgate Druid, the deceased doctor was actually the very first hero that Marvel comics ever published. I know the current thinking is that Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961) was the first Marvel comic, but it was actually Amazing Adventures #1 (June 1961). Dr. Droom, or Dr. Druid as he was later renamed (due to a certain metal clad monarch having a similar name) lasted most of AA's run, until the series changed the title to Amazing Adult Fantasy with issue seven (and later Amazing Fantasy, in which a certain Web-head would make a memorable first appearance). Druid, as you have guessed by now, wasn't exactly setting sale records aflame. After the last issue before the name change, Druid vanished. He wouldn't reappear again until Weird Wonder Tales #19 (Dec. 1976) with both his name changed and his overall appearance altered. Even after his revival, things were fairly bleak for the good doctor. A guest shot with both the Hulk and Ghost Rider a year later did nothing, and it looked like the good doctor would fade into nothingness once again. After a good stint of doing nothing, Druid was shoehorned into the Avengers, a role some felt was undeserved due to his second (or third) string nature. When your most memorable action on the team is being mind controlled and cast into Limbo that does little to discredit that particular notion.
The character went through several redesigns and lead the Secret Defenders for a bit, before he was finally rewarded with his own series. A series that saw him go totally insane and murder quite a few people before being killed the Son of Satan himself, Damien Hellstorm. Not exactly the best exit for their first hero, is it?
Deborah Whitman may seem a bit more familiar to you. She was cast as a potential romantic interest for Peter Parker in Amazing Spider Man #196 (Sep. 1976). Her main gimmick was always being stood up by Pete for one reason or another (usually Spider-Man related). She was written out in 1983 and never spoken of again in the book or the Marvel Universe for that matter. The makers behind the 1990's Spider-Man animated series, however, decided to bring her back into the spotlight. She did fare better than some of Peter's other potential girlfriends, so I suppose she should be thankful.
Now, in case anyone is wondering, the Druid here is the one from the mainstream Marvel Universe. There will be repercussions for his actions, and prices to pay. This particular story was based on "I am the Fantastic Dr. Droom!" which was first printed in Amazing Adventures #1 (June 1961). The only credit I could find was Jack Kirby (pencils) and Steve Ditko (inks).
So, what can we except in this new series? Well, as with the old tales, there are going to be some giant monsters aplenty, as well as aliens, super villains (some you know, and others you might not), and maybe even a guest appearance for some of my other lovely ladies and other Marvel heroes to boot.
Join us next time when Deborah has her first real test in The World Below!
So ladies and gentlemen, what did you think?
And coming soon to a monitor near you:
Journey Into Mystery #6-The Vengeance of Loki!
Sensational Comics #5-Beatuy and the Beast!
Tales to Astonish #4-Betrayed by the Ants!