Supernatural Thrillers #5
Issue(s): Supernatural Thrillers #5
The problem with the Mummy, though, is that it's difficult to imagine how to use him as an ongoing character. Marvel did well by making Dracula the villain of the series, and Werewolf By Night works as a Hulk-like creature that the hero transforms into in time to fight the bad guys. But the Mummy, like Frankenstein's Monster and like the Man-Thing and the Zombie (introduced the same month as the Mummy) and the Golem (coming a year from now), is an inarticulate and lumbering creature that can't really work as an arch-villain or an unwilling hero. But as is obvious by the list i just went through, Marvel was actually pretty used to the semi-sentient character, and writer Steve Gerber specifically had a lot of that experience. There will be a difference with the Living Mummy, too. He starts off insane, from 3,000 years of solitary confinement, but he eventually recovers his sanity. Due to a language barrier he is still not able to communicate with the majority of the characters, but he is intelligent.
I originally thought that this first appearance of the Mummy was meant as a simple one-off monster story/adaption like the Supernatural Thriller series had been doing for the first four issues (and next issue) and that it was only with issue #7 that Marvel realized they'd be better off with a recurring character, but reading this now it's pretty clear that the story was at least meant as a try out.
The story features an archeologist who gives off serious supervillain vibes, and not just because his name is Dr. Skarab and he wears a big honking scarab amulet.
He also is able to trace his lineage 3,000 years back to an ancient Egyptian wizard named Nephrus...
...and he's just unusually preoccupied with the idea of discovering the mummy, specifically so that he can gain immortality.
I don't know if Gerber (who is off the series after the second Living Mummy story) had intentions along those lines, but if that was the case they are dropped and Dr. Skarab will turn out to be a pretty regular guy. But this issue clearly introduces him and his peers, Ron and Janice, as ongoing characters.
A good portion of the story is devoted to the history of the Living Mummy, who, in a twist, is not of Egyptian lineage himself but is from a tribe of southern Africans called Swarilis.
They were enslaved by the Egyptians and forced to build a pyramid for the Pharaoh Arem-Set. An exceptionally large slave named N'Kantu led a rebellion and was mummified by the wizard Nephrus.
This "lost" Egyptian dynasty was subsequently swallowed up by an earthquake, with the implication that the gods were not pleased with the actions of Nephrus.
This origin was designed to make the Living Mummy a "black" character (i know that Egypt is an African country too, but the origin is clearly designed to ensure that N'Kantu is identified as black instead of Middle Eastern). It's also worth noting that the supporting cast characters Ron and Janice are black. It's i guess an interesting quirk of history that Marvel was making an active attempt to diversify their character's ethnicities at the same time that the horror fad was big. This worked out pretty well for Blade in Tomb of Dracula, but the Living Mummy and Brother Voodoo didn't exactly take off as characters you'd point to proudly to show that Marvel's characters aren't all white characters created in the 1960s.
Jumping ahead to the present day (or "1973"), in the Gaza Strip, N'Kantu resurfaces, maddened by 3,000 years of immobilized immortality. His revival is unexplained this issue.
So his arrival at the same time Dr. Skarab has made all these discoveries about him is a complete coincidence. But the fact that he arrives at Dr. Skarab's location in Cairo is not a coincidence; it's because N'Kantu the Living Mummy senses that Skarab is the descendant of Nephrus (in fact, the Mummy thinks that Skarab is Nephrus), and he wants to force Skarab to restore his humanity. It's not something that Skarab is able to do...
...and the Mummy winds up getting shot by the police (which is mostly ineffectual although the Mummy is initially baffled by the modern weapons), and then electrocuted when he pulls down a power line.
Next issue goes back to random horror stories, but the Living Mummy becomes the regular feature for this series (which only lasts until issue #15).
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Next issue begins after a decent amount of time has passed, after the Mummy has been boxed up and transported to America.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Marvel Horror vol. 2
The 1973 Arab-Israeli War started in October of 1973- this issue is dated August.
Posted by: Michael | January 28, 2015 9:05 PM
Ah, ok. The reference to "the Gaza strip - Israeli occupied Egypt" threw me. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 28, 2015 9:46 PM
The cover to this issue was changed significantly from when it appeared in a house ad.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 12, 2016 11:11 AM
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