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When We First Met – Marvel Comic Magical Objects!

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today we look at the first appearances of three magical objects from Marvel Comics – the Darkhold, the Serpent Crown and the Casket of Ancient Winters!


First appearance of the Darkhold

The Darkhold is first mentioned in Marvel Spotlight #3 by Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog, as Jack Russell gets caught up in a plot to find some mysterious book his birth father supposedly owned…

His captors were one of those “we need to do some bad in order for us to do good” types of people, so one of his captors balked when Jack began to be abused…

That’s the first time the book is called the Darkhold.

Now escaped, Jack decides he IS interested in finding the book himself…

In the next issue (also by Conway and Ploog), Jack meets a reporter named Buck Cowan, who tells him about the Darkhold…

They travel to the castle, which has now been turned into a mental institution. Jack is captured and he meets the daughter of the new owner….

Jack discovers the owner doing terrible experiments on the patients but he also discovers…

(The twist in the issue is that Marlene has Medusa-like powers and her father is doing all of the experiments in an attempt to cure her)

First appearance of the Serpent Crown

In the last issue of Tales to Astonish (#101) by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan and Dan Adkins, Namor is haunted by a dream of a new villain…

At the end of the issue, we meet Destiny, a man with a helmet of power!

In the next Namor issue (contained in the one-shot Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1), we learn the origins of the helmet, how he read about a helmet of the ancients…

and discovered it in the Antarctic…

Eventually, the man named Destiny ends up dead (the helmet made him so cocky that he felt that its power was within himself and he did not need the helmet. He then tried levitating off of a building and…well…it did not work).

Namor goes to get the helmet. He manages to do so in Sub-Mariner #8. In the following issue (written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Marie Severin and Dan Adkins), Namor brings the helmet back to Atlantis for safe keeping…

The helmet makes a change, though, while Namor is off on other business…

And while he is gone, Dorma is taken under its spell…

Things are not good when Namor returns…


First appearance of the Casket of Ancient Winters

In Thor #345, a young man is captured by some magical beings. He knows his time is nearly up, so he puts into place arrangements with his lawyer. The lawyer mentions the situation to the Avengers, who pass it along to Thor…

As it turns out, we’re talking about the Casket of the Ancient Winters!

The young man is the guardian of the casket. He is actually a lot older than he looks. Whoever the guardian is does not age once he becomes the guardian. With his death near, Eric Willis passes the torch to his son, Roger, a Korean War veteran. Roger goes to find the casket…

Ultimately, though, Malekith gets the casket…

And this leads to a story (that affected the entire Marvel Universe) where all of the winters of the world are unleashed on Earth at once.

The casket played a role in the recent Thor film, as well.

Feel free to send in ideas for other debuts that you’re curious about! Send your ideas to bcronin@comicbookresources.com!


I am so glad that the cliche of “Lenny”-esque servants has gone out of style.

As a big H.P. Lovecraft fan, I always enjoyed stories dealing with the Drakhold and its author Chthon, which were so obviously inspired by the Cthulhu mythos. I never realized where the Darkhold had actually first appeared. Or, for that matter, the Serpent Crown.

The artwork from these stories is beautiful. The Thor material is obviously Walter Simonson. Could you let us know who drew the Werewolf and Sub-Mariner material?

sandwich eater

May 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I would totally read “The Compleat [sic] History of Mind-Reading.”

The Crazed Spruce

May 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

@Ben Herman: I don’t know about the Werewolf By Night one, but I’m pretty sure the Sub-Mariner stuff was Gene Colan. (The credits in the first picture kinda gave me the hint.)

The Crazed Spruce

May 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

And the Werewolf By Night story was drawn by Mike Ploog. (Brian actually said so in the article.)

It’s funny how the creators of the Serpent Crown keep changing. It’s the Ancients- no, it’s Naga- no, it’s ancient Atlanteans.

Conan the Buccaneer is the 1971 that introduced the Cobra Crown. The Serpent Crown predates this novel’s publication. Did de Camp look to Roy Thomas for ideas?

(This reminds of the odd thing about Robert E. Howard. In the Spider short story “Fear Itself” (published in The Spider Chronicles by Moonstone in 2007) by Joel Frieman and C.J. Henderson, an occult expert named Guicet enlists the Spider’s aid in defeating a group of Serpent Men who acquire a duplicate of the Cobra Crown from Conan the Buccaneer. In The Phantom Chronicles, worshippers of Set appear, but no Serpent Men.

Why does this stirke me as odd? In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Spider and the Phantom stood as probably far better known that any Robert E. Howard creation-Kull et al. never had a serial, unauthorized Mexican comic books featured the Spider- yet we now have homages to Howard in short stories about the Spider and the Phantom.)

I love how the Casket of Ancient Winters’ first appearance is … in the only story I was aware of that featured it!

And here the Casket’s inclusion here fooled me into thinking that maybe it was an older Silver Age thing that Simonson had single-handedly made awesome.

Well, I guess it was in JLA/Avengers too, but not so you’d notice. I’ve never heard of this crossover of which you speak, which I guess is a blessing. Ymir knows the last thing we need is another freaking crossover.

The “crossover” is just that same story – when the casket is opened, a bunch of marvel comics that month had a panel or two of characters wondering why it was snowing in June.

Fair enough, I re-phrased “crossover” so as to not give people the wrong idea.

Oh! OK. I certainly remember all the Simonson awesomeness. So was the Casket pretty much just a one-story device after all?

In the comics, yes, but it was a major part of the Thor film, as well.

To be fair the one story does go on for a little while. And it does directly crossover into other comics: Avengers 249 involves the Avengers battling Surtur’s hoards….. and doesn’t the ending of the story feed into Rom#65 somehow?

The Casket has shown up again as well I think: wasn’t it given to the Avengers for them to take care of and someone tries to steal it in an early issue of the Busiek Avengers?

And if you’ve not got those Thor issues then get them: traded in the first 3 volumes of Thor Classics/Visionaries: Walter Simonson and I believe there’s a HC out too

“Compleat” is a real word, BTW (variation of complete).

Chris McFeely

May 15, 2012 at 3:53 am

Hey, that really surprises me about the Serpent Crown! I knew it’s history and about the whole Helmet of Power deal, but not having read the story, I’d LONG assume that was just Thomas doing his usual thing and retconning the histories of the alread-existing Helmet and already-existing Crown into one – not introducing them both!

I need to pay much more attention to the details! So… that’s some lovely artwork by Marie Severin & Dan Adkins on Sub-Mariner #8.

Love seeing the Ploog Werewolf By Night artwork again! That was one of my favorite books to read when I was a kid. (though I do feel dumb that though a young lad I NEVER got the joke about Jack’s name till I was much older. Had one of those d’oh moments)

Sorry if this has been covered before, but when was the first time Namor said, “IMPERIUS REX!?”
And has there ever been an explanation as to why?

According to the credits box shown here, the Sub-Mariner story in Tales to Astonish #101 was written by Archie Goodwin; Roy Thomas doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with that issue.

The Casket was lost for a time following the seeming destruction of Asgard after Heroes Reborn; Thor found it and gave it to the Avengers for safekeeping in Avengers v.3 #5 by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. The Casket was apparently stolen by the Dark Elf Jagrflem in in Dan Jurgens’s and Andy Kubert’s Thor, but he was quickly slain by Malekith, who used the Casket to attack Asgard; there, we also saw a counterpart artifact, a Gem of Infinite Suns, which was fnally used by Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three to defeat Malekith. Both the Gem and Casket were hurled intoa dimensional limbo by Thor to prevent their future misuse.

No dice, though; the Casket was retrieved by the Gandmaster and used as one of the Marvel Universe artifacts battled over in JLA/Avengers by two obscure teams of superheroes.

“I love how the Casket of Ancient Winters’ first appearance is … in the only story I was aware of that featured it!

And here the Casket’s inclusion here fooled me into thinking that maybe it was an older Silver Age thing that Simonson had single-handedly made awesome.”

I’m the same way. I clicked on this fully expecting to find out that it dated back to the Lee-Kirby days (or at least the ’70s).

Re: Casket of Ancient Winters: Ahhh…. Marvel Comics in 1984. While every hero was united in battling Surter’s Hordes and helping Rom destroy the Dire Wraiths you had no need to buy an “Event” maxi-series. There was no redundant frontline book. You didn’t need a special “This is where the Battle Happens” series. Shooter made sure all his books were “Event” worthy.

I wish you showed the origin of The Wand of Watumbi…. I had the Marvel Treasury Edition that reprinted Spidey’s team up with Dr. Strange fighting the guy who weilded the wand.

Since they did not have the rights to Conan yet, had Thomas thrown in the whole Serpent Crown angle as a sort of homage to Howard as a sort of subtle homage?

The casket played a role in the Avengers animated series a year ago, as well (leading to the team getting scattered across the Nine Realms in much the same way that the New Mutants did in the comics)

@PB210: My understanding is that Roy did indeed intend the Serpent Crown as a sort of unofficial version of the Cobra Crown from Howard’s stories. Of course, that understanding comes from your speculations at the Unofficial Appendix site.

Sorry, not Howard’s stories, but a post-Howard story by Sprague de Camp.

always found it cool that werewolf by night had to be the one to go after the darkhold first. that plus always wondered exactly what the casket of ancient winters looked like.

Omar Karindu
May 16, 2012 at 6:25 am

Sorry, not Howard’s stories, but a post-Howard story by Sprague de Camp.


One published after the introduction of the Serpent Crown.

I’m amused that the villainess in the Werewolf by Night story goes from being called “Andrea” on page 10 to “Agatha” on page 15, then back to “Andrea” when Jack thinks back to her after finding the Darkhold.

I wonder if the Marlene in the Werewolf story is the same character, or an early version of, Marlene Alraune from Moon Knight. I think MK came from the WWBN series too, right? Though Moonie’s Marlene never had Medusa powers, that could be a cool story. Well, better than turning into a big green harpy, anyway!

If I remember, the Darkhold wasn’t very Lovecraftian back in Werewolf, just a standard blasphemous tone (penned by the Mad Monk Aelfric, IIRC). I don’t know when it got linked to Cthon (with Modred the Mystic?).
I do enjoy the Werewolf by Nights. Nice work.

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