(1st series) #3
Lorna Dane / Polaris
Queen Priestess of the Sun God
Savage Land Mutates, Sun-People
• Priestess of Garokk the Sun God,
highly knowledgeable in the arcane
practices of her religion, able to use
potions, incantations and rituals to
endow Garokk with a living host body
or summon her god from a distance
to provide aid to his worshippers
• Transference technology allowed her to harness the magnetic powers of Polaris, then Magneto, enabling her to manipulate surrounding magnetic fields to animate and direct ferrous metals, focus magnetic energy into concussive blasts or defensive force fields, and levitate herself through the air
Little is known about the past of the enigmatic woman called Zaladane. Apparently not a native of the Savage Land, the circumstances and timing of Zaladane’s arrival in the prehistoric land hidden within Antarctica have yet to be revealed. One thing is clear, though, the striking, dark-haired beauty was mad for power. Though an outlander, she managed not only to be taken in by the tribe of the Sun-People, she also became their ruling queen and high priestess of their Sun god, Garokk.
It is possible that Zaladane already possessed some magical skills before she became part of the tribe, though it is more likely that the spells she was able to wield came along with her role as high priestess. Part of her duties involved interpreting omens that might signify the imminent return of the Sun god to his people. Eventually, Zaladane declared that the “first age of the sun” was about to end and the old prophecies were about to come to true. In order to honor Garokk with new conquests, Zaladane started an all-out war in the Savage Land and led her people into battle.
Riding domesticated pterodactyls and armed with spears and torch-bombs, the Sun-People overpowered rival tribes such as the Lizard-Men and the Fall People, destroying their cities and taking many prisoners to be used as slaves. It’s unclear whether Zaladane truly believed in the ancient prophecies, given that at the time Zaladane foresaw Garokk’s return the Savage Land’s self-proclaimed protector, Ka-Zar, was conveniently absent for several weeks, exploring civilization. Still, Ka-Zar learned of these events, as he was sought out by the Petrified Man.
The Petrified Man was a British sailor who had been washed ashore the Savage Land about five centuries ago and had accidentally stumbled into the Sun-People’s city, where he drank from a sacred goblet before making it back to civilization. The elixir from the goblet had granted him eternal life and, as the decades went by, the sailor’s flesh slowly turned to living stone, transforming his face into that of Garokk. Although he had lived in seclusion ever since, through his dreams he learned of Zaladane’s activities and felt compelled to return to the Savage Land, asking Ka-Zar to accompany him. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #3]
Upon reaching the Sun-People’s village in the Savage Land, the Petrified Man began to display strange powers and refer to himself as Garokk, the Sun God. As his features were identical to those of the tribe’s idol, they followed his command when he ordered for the war to end. Zaladane did not want to accept that, though, and accused Ka-Zar of intervening with her plans. She had her pterodactyl grab Ka-Zar and flew off with him but, during their aerial struggle, Ka-Zar got the upper hand, as he blinded the flying animal. As they crashed to the ground, Ka-Zar even shielded Zaladane from the impact, possibly saving her life but making her feel only further humiliated.
Pretending to thank Ka-Zar, she told him of a cavern underneath a temple where a cure for the Petrified Man’s condition could be found. However, she left out the part of the secret cavern being guarded by a demonic beast. As Ka-Zar fought for his life, Zaladane magically summoned Garokk to her side in order to manipulate him for her own purposes. Unable to handle his ever-growing powers, Garokk was on the brink of madness. He attacked Zaladane and chased her into the very same cavern in which she had sent Ka-Zar. Inside, Zaladane pleaded for Ka-Zar to help her and an all-out battle erupted, during which the Petrified Man finally died after falling into a pool of the elixir and Zaladane was buried in a cave-in. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #4-5]
Somehow she found a way out of the underground cavern and resumed her position as high priestess of the Sun-People. The encounter with the Petrified Man had shown her how powerful Garokk could truly be and she plotted to have someone whom she could easily manipulate wield this power. Hence she kidnapped another outlander, one Kirk Marston, and embalmed his chest with oil she had made from the ashes of the Petrified Man. Instantly, Marston was transformed into Garokk, gaining some of the memories of his predecessor in the process. Regardless, the new Garokk agreed with Zaladane that the Sun-People needed to be protected from outside forces, and together they ordered their tribe to build a huge, advanced city for all of Savage Land’s inhabitants to live in, united under Garokk’s and Zaladane’s rule. Those who would refuse to join them, though, were ordered to be slain.
The presence of the new city upset the Savage Land’s delicate ecological structure, alerting Ka-Zar and the X-Men to the Sun-People’s activities. However, as they investigated the strange city, half of the heroes were captured by the Sun-People. Garokk and Zaladane eagerly wanted to see their captives executed on a public stand. However, just as the death sentence was about to be carried out, the remaining X-Men intervened and freed their friends. During the following battle, Garokk accidentally caused the city’s demise when he drew power from its geo-thermal generator, resulting in tremors that made parts of the city, along with Garokk, tumble down a deep shaft to the Earth’s core. [X-Men (1st series) #115-116]
Ka-Zar saw to it that Zaladane was imprisoned in the Savage Land, but she soon was freed by her minions. With Garokk far beyond her reach, she sought new super-powered allies who hated Ka-Zar and the X-Men as much as she did – and found them in Sauron and the Savage Land Mutates. Their common goal was once again to conquer the entire Savage Land and, while Sauron and the Mutates were powerful enough to defeat their opponents, Zaladane provided the army to keep the newly acquired territories occupied. Expecting the X-Men to get involved sooner or later, Zaladane prepared for their arrival and lured them into a trap. Imprisoning the mutant heroes was not enough, though.
Zaladane also took away the X-Men’s powers by devolving them into mindless savages, using the very same Mutant Energy Stimulator that had initially produced the Savage Land Mutates from a bunch of swamp savages with latent powers. Though it seemed that Zaladane had picked her allies well, she only considered their assets and not their weaknesses. Wrongly believing he could control Storm of the X-Men, the Mutate Brainchild restored her beautiful appearance as he wanted to turn her into his personal slave. The X-Men’s leader easily overpowered Brainchild and then swept Zaladane far away with a powerful wind blast. By the time she got back to the base, the other X-Men’s powers had already been restored and they had defeated Zaladane’s allies. [Marvel Fanfare (1st series) #2-4]
At some point, the Savage Land was attacked by an evil alien named Terminus or one of his pawns posing as him. Several people died confronting him, and the rest of the Savage Land perished when Terminus destroyed the generator that maintained the tropical climate. Within minutes, the arctic winds of Antarctica covered the tropic jungles with snow and ice, making life impossible there. [Avengers (1st series) #257]
By means unknown, Zaladane managed to escape the apparent fate of most other inhabitants of the area. Her powers base destroyed, she made the best of her situation, as in the wake of the disaster an opportunity arose for Zaladane. Mourning the loss of the many unique life forms of the Savage Land, the High Evolutionary made it his personal task to restore the tropic region to its former state. By becoming his personal assistant, Zaladane gained access to the Evolutionary’s citadel and the most advanced technology she had ever seen. Secretly she plotted together with the Savage Land Mutates to use the sophisticated equipment to establish themselves as rulers of the Savage Land, once it would be restored. Ironically, Zaladane wouldn’t have needed to plot behind the High Evolutionary’s back, as the scientist was well aware of her true goals, but just didn’t care for politics. All he was interested in was preserving the historic fauna and flora.
Never too far away when the Savage Land was in need, the X-Men arrived to investigate what was going on. In order to prove that he meant no harm, the High Evolutionary invited the mutants into his citadel, and Havok accepted on behalf of his team whereas the other X-Men stayed outside to explore the ruins. As Havok had never met Zaladane before, he didn’t recognize the woman who had tried to kill his teammates several times when the Evolutionary merely introduced her as “my assistant, Zala.” Later, when the X-Men observed the Evolutionary recreate the Savage Land (thanks to a recently returned Garokk sacrificing his life-force to empower his terraforming device), Zaladane stayed out of sight. As it turned out, many of the Savage Land’s inhabitants had survived by escaping into a pocket dimension, and they soon returned to re-populate the area. [Uncanny X-Men Annual #12]
At some point after both the X-Men and the High Evolutionary had left the area, Zaladane and her allies made themselves at home in the scientist’s citadel. When Brainchild happened upon a device among the Evolutionary’s equipment called the Transmutator, a machine capable of transferring superpowers from one individual to a genetically compatible match, Zaladane found a means to gain abilities on her own, so that she would no longer need to depend on powerful allies. Implying that her own name was actually Zala Dane, she intended to use her sister, Polaris, aka Lorna Dane, for the power transferring process. Although it’s possible that Zala learned of Lorna’s existence rather recently, it’s much more probable that she knew about her sister much longer (despite it not being the case the other way around) and only brought her up now that she had a specific use for her.
[Note: Zaladane and Polaris being sisters hardly works with what has been established about Polaris’ heritage in X-Men (1st series) #52 and Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #431. Orphaned shortly after birth as her parents had died in a plane crash, Lorna had been adopted by her supposed father’s sister and brother-in-law. She never learned of the adoption until she was an adult, meaning her last name “Dane” must have been that of her adoptive parents and not her original name. Even worse, as Magneto was later revealed to be Lorna’s actual father – her mother apparently having had an affair with the self-styled master of magnetism – there is no chance left of a blood relation between her and the Danes.
The only way for Zaladane’s claim to make sense is going by the assumption that Zala is a significantly older maternal half-sister of Lorna, who was adopted by the Danes at the same time, but eventually ran away from them, perhaps irrationally blaming her new-born baby sister for the death of their parents. That’d explain the last name, their relation and Zala remembering Lorna but not vice versa. One might also argue that Zaladane was just lying about being Lorna’s sister, but Havok noted an undeniable resemblance between the two women and Moira MacTaggert would later confirm in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #254 that, for the power transfer to work, they needed to be biologically related.]
The Savage Land Mutates had a hard time locating Polaris for their mistress, but eventually they tracked the green-haired mutant down to Chile and captured her. Almost immediately after returning to the Savage Land, the Transmutator was put to use, enabling Zaladane to control and manipulate magnetic energies as her now powerless sister used to. Although too late to stop the power transfer, the X-Men came to rescue Polaris and fought the Savage Land Mutates and Zaladane’s troops. When Havok tried to blast Zaladane out of the air with a plasma bolt, she managed to magnetically shield herself. However, still inexperienced in the use of her stolen powers, she forgot to anchor herself against the force of the plasma bolt. As a result, she was hurled backwards into a wall, briefly knocking her out, allowing Polaris and the X-Men to escape. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #249-250]
Zaladane didn’t mind, though, as she had gotten what she wanted. Due to the close proximity to the Earth’s magnetic South Pole, her magnetic abilities were already at her peak, but Zaladane still wasn’t satisfied. She raised six amplifying towers over primary nexus spots of the Earth’s magnetic field, enabling her to wield her stolen powers on a planetary scale. Wielding her vast powers without concern for the effects on the Earth’s eco-system, she easily brought almost the entire Savage land under her control, with a few locals led by Ka-Zar, Magneto and Rogue trying to rebel against her. As she was also threatening the world with earthquakes, the United Nations dispatched a squad led by Nick Fury, which eventually joined with the rebels.
Among the UN troops was a Colonel Semyanov, whose son had died on the submarine Leningrad which Magneto has sunk in self defense during one of his own bids for world domination. Semyanov betrayed the others by seeking revenge and shooting Magneto at a critical juncture, allowing Zaladane’s troops to capture them. The colonel then struck a deal with Zaladane, promising to help her get the Savage Land acknowledged as a sovereign state with her as the leader in return for her leaving the rest of the world in peace. She wasn’t sure, though, if the United Nations would accept her, as they probably feared her too much.
Using Brainchild’s machinery, Zaladane drew from Magneto’s magnetic energies to add them to her own as well. However, when Rogue and Ka-Zar attacked, Magneto broke free. While the Savage Land Mutates and Zaladane were busy fighting the rebels, the depleted Magneto made his way to the platform Zaladane had been standing on before, enabling him to reverse the process and drain her magnetic energies to re-empower himself. Although Zaladane was now a defenseless captive, Magneto decided to kill her nonetheless, as he perceived her to be too much of a threat for mutantkind and the planet to let her live on. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #274-275]
Whereas in the main reality, the Dane sisters did not get to meet a second time before Zaladane’s death, there have counterparts across the multiverse, whose lives turned out differently. In the reality depicted in What if (2nd series) #46-47, Cable assassinated Professor Xavier, Jean Grey and Cyclops, taking out the X-Men’s heart and soul. As the X-Men split up, with one group seeking bloody revenge and the other half of the team spreading themselves thin fighting their many enemies, Zaladane’s rise to power in the Savage Land was met with no resistance.
Eventually she and the Savage Land Mutates attacked and defeated the second group of X-Men in their headquarters. Among them was Polaris, whom Zaladane was surprised to see wielding a new set of superhuman abilities. This time she cruelly decided to drain Polaris of all her life-energy, killing her. Zaladane didn’t far much better, though, as she was slaughtered like nearly every mutant on the planet when the US president launched the Sentinel program.