McSharran’s Pub…a vintage watering hole in one of Manhattan’s vintage neighbourhoods, Inwood. A good place to meet friends and enjoy a meal and unwind. It is also a good place to be alone….
Tonight I sat alone. My name’s Claremont. I’m a writer. A hundred hours ago, I was shanghaied on a slow boat to Hell. Unfortunately, I survived the trip.
As people mill about drinking, eating and enjoying the company of friends and lovers, a blast of chill air and street noise enters the pub from the far end of the bar, and signals the arrival of three more patrons. The man called Claremont does not look up. He doesn’t care who they are or why they are here, just as long as they leave him alone.
The tall man is Jim Shooter – Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. The woman is Louise Jones, a senior Editor for Marvel, and the other man is Jones’ assistant, Danny Fingeroth. Danny exclaims ‘If he’s not here, Jim…I give up!’ They are Claremont’s bosses, his friends and they have been looking for him for the better part of two days.
Jim Shooter approaches the bartender and asks a question, as the bartender replies ‘Sure, I know who you mean,’ and motions to Claremont’s booth, informing Shooter that he is a regular customer for lunch and dinner, but not for drinking, which is why he was getting a bit worried, for in the last few hours, he has downed the better part of a fifth of Jameson’s.
Claremont’s luck is running true to form – for the first time in his life he is deliberately trying to drink himself into oblivion. The result being that he is cold sober. ‘Chris?’ Jim Shooter exclaims quietly. ‘Oh, Chris – what’s wrong? You look awful!’ Louise remarks. ‘Yeah,’ is all Chris replies. The editors all sit down in the booth and Jim informs Claremont that they received his resignation from Man-Thing the other day, before asking him what prompted it, as he was doing excellent work on the book.
Claremont tells his friends that is because he thought the stories were coming from his imagination – he would have dreams, then put them down on paper.
It seems I was mistaken. I wasn’t writing fiction!
Claremont exclaims that he knows it sounds crazy, so he will start at the beginning and tell them everything that happened, so they can judge for themselves whether it is fantasy or reality. And so begins Claremont’s unbelievable tale…starting four days ago….
Last Friday night – the 13th – Claremont and Lark were strolling through Greenwich Village. It was midnight and they were on Bleeker Street after just watching a fine play at the public theatre. They were looking forward to supper at the Lion’s Head. It was a lovely evening – a succession of perfect moments, Claremont thought – and then, the mood – along with much of his sanity – shattered.
Claremont hoped he was dreaming, or hallucinating, until Lark turned around and saw what he saw also – ‘A pirate ship – with blood-red sails…floating in mid-air?’ Lark exclaims, before motioning to Chris that it is heading for that house nearby. Claremont rushes towards the house, telling Lark to go and call the police. ‘Right – only what’ll I tell them?’ Lark asks. Claremont doesn’t answer as he rushes towards the house – a house he had never seen before, yet which in many ways was as familiar to him as his own.
Claremont thinks to himself that the address is right, as is the design – impossible as it sounds, this is the residence of Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts! So, by rights, the house should be protected by all manner of sorcerous defences. The door opens at Claremont’s slightest touch. Claremont has chronicled a number of Dr. Strange’s adventures – again, more weird dreams producing equally weird stories. And while Claremont had often fantasized about meeting the Sorcerer Supreme and his lover-and-disciple Clea – he never imagined it actually happening.
It is scary for Claremont, suddenly discovering that the boundary between truth and fiction had been redrawn – if it ever actually existed at all. Claremont discovers Dr. Strange and the lovely Clea in Strange’s attic – his true Sanctum Sanctorum, the room with the circular sigil-window. They are dead, their bodies still warm – the Reaper had apparently caught them unawares, and only a short time ago.
Claremont wonders what is happening to him – not to mention what happened here – did Strange and Clea die of natural causes – or were they murdered? Suddenly a voice from behind Claremont exclaims ‘They were murdered!’ Claremont turns swiftly, and, shocked, sees John Daltry standing before him. Daltry remarks that he is the former Sheriff of Cypress County, Florida, now turned pirate – ‘At your service’. Daltry remarks that Claremont is a perceptive young man, and would wager that he is talented also, before declaring that it is a pity he has the bad luck to show up in the wrong place at the wrong time!
With that, John Daltry strikes his sword into Claremont, who screams ‘NO!’ and falls to the floor. Standing over Claremont’s body, Daltry declares that he has more blood for his Magus Sword, another soul for his master. He has slain three this evening, and he believes his work has just begun. Daltry tells Claremont to be honored, in part because of he, Daltry’s dread lord will be restored to his rightful place…as Master of the Cosmos!
At that moment…in Florida, more specifically the Citrusville Library and Historical Society…’Man-Thing!’ exclaims Barbara Bannister as she witnesses the quag-beast known as Man-Thing’s explosive entrance to the library. Not too long ago, Barbara Bannister was the classic upper-middle-class American princess – beautiful, intelligent, talented, spoiled rotten and good for practically nothing. Until her parents were murdered before her eyes, so, now, Barbara lives a life on the run, hiding her life from the killers.
Barbara learned a lot about herself that terrible night – not all of it pleasant, as she herself for what she was, and what she could be. When her ordeal was finally over, she turned her back on her old self forever. Man-Thing, who is currently lumbering up some stairs, was the catalyst for that change, as he has been for much that has occurred in and around Citrusville since hit unholy creation. Barbara watches as Man-Thing brushes right past her, as if she doesn’t exist, and realizes that he is heading towards the reading room.
Barbara rushes behind Man-Thing into the reading room and calls out to John Kowalski, warning him that Man-Thing is after him. John is sitting at a desk and replies that he has been expecting Man-Thing, before telling Barbara that there is nothing to be afraid of. ‘He can’t harm me – he won’t’ Kowalski reveals. Barbara tells Kowalski that she doesn’t understand, and reminds him that he told her violent emotions – most especially fear – attract him. Barbara points out that Kowalski doesn’t look afraid, so she wants to know why Man-Thing is drawn to him.
‘He is a creature of life. I am Death’ Kowalski replies, explaining to Barbara that all living beings project a psychic aura, and while he exits, he does not live, so he projects no aura. Kowalski continues, explaining that, to Sallis, he appears as an emotional void, a hole in his perfection of reality. That affects him and attracts him to Kowalski – but not enough to prompt a hostile act on his part. Barbara is confused as to why Kowalski called Man-Thing “Sallis” and asks who that is.
Kowalski explains that Ted Sallis was a government scientist who had created a serum designed to turn men into super soldiers. Enemy agents tried to steal Sallis’ formula but escaped, though they pursued him. Just before Sallis’ car crashed into the swamp, Sallis injected himself with the only batch of serum. Kowalski informs Barbara that that part of the Everglades – the swamp – is the Nexus of all Realities, a mystic crossroads and that the wild sorcery of the nexus interacted with Sallis’ untested serum, resulting in his transformation into Man-Thing.
‘How…horrible!’ Barbara exclaims, looking wide-eyed at Man-Thing. Kowalski tells Barbara that things could be worse, but since the creature is mindless, Sallis has no awareness of what he’s become, so to Sallis, it is probably just like sleeping. ‘You don’t care, do you?’ Barbara asks Kowalski, who tells her to calm down, that anger is a violent emotion and she might upset their mossy companion – who in turn might melt her face. ‘And no, I don’t care’ he adds in answer to Barbara’s prior question.
Kowalski goes on to say that he has seen too much, so he stopped caring ages ago. Barbara turns to John and asks him why it is then that he is helping her. Kowalski replies ‘Personal reasons’ before changing the subject from himself to Barbara, exclaiming that it is time they talked about her problem – John Daltry. John reminds Barbara that after the defeat of Captain Fate she was able to leave his enchanted ship, while Daltry wasn’t, and since then she has tried to find and rescue him, but failed.
Barbara exclaims that Fate’s sword is the key and it was after Daltry touched and used it that his personality began to change. Barbara informs John that the sword was forged in the 1500’s by Ferdinand Diausterian, a Spanish sword smith who was burned at the stake as a sorcerer by the inquisition. His blades were supposedly destroyed with him, but rumor has it that a few survived – among them the Magus Sword. Barbara adds that, repeatedly, the Magus Sword possessed extra-ordinary power and the capability to open gateways to alternate dimensions.
John Kowalski tells Barbara that he is impressed and that her scholarship does her proud. He adds that Diausterian was the servant of an ancient, primal, demonic power – perhaps the ultimate evil – and his Magus Sword possesses those who handle it in battle. Kowalski explains that the sword enslaves them by binding them to that dread power and steals the souls of those it slays – no living being can stand against it. Kowalski reveals that the sword can only be fought – and defeated – by someone no longer living. ‘You, Kowalski?’ Barbara asks.
‘No. You. If you’ve the courage’ Kowalski replies. Shocked, Barbara asks if she has to die to save the man she loves, and asks Kowalski if this is the “help” he promised her. ‘Is this how you get your jollies, Kowalski? By tormenting people who’ve never done you any harm?’ ‘”Torment”, Barbara? You don’t know the meaning of the word!’ Kowalski exclaims, declaring that he has been in torment since the day he died.
Kowalski informs Barbara that, while the concept of death is eternal, the personification is not. He explains that forty years ago he was chosen to take up the mantle of the grim reaper, and while he didn’t want it, he was not given a choice. John Kowalski exclaims that since that time, he has borne the burden alone – but he can’t bear it anymore, he wants – needs – someone to share it with him.
‘That’s your price?’ Barbara asks him. ‘To save the life and soul of the man you love’ Kowalski replies, adding ‘And to save the world from the curse of the Magus Sword’. Barbara remarks that Kowalski doesn’t give her much choice, before asking if it will hurt. ‘Not in the way you think’ Kowalski replies as he leans towards Barbara, then they kiss – but not as lovers. Truly, it is the kiss of death.
Eyes closed, Barbara breathes, then opens her eyes. Nothing seems to have changed, and yet everything has. Barbara is now slightly taller, and her medium-length red hair has been replaced by ankle-length flowing brown hair, and she is now clad in a purple spandex outfit. Barbara exclaims that she doesn’t feel any different, before noticing her physical changes and asks why she looks so strange.
Kowalski explains that each man’s concept of Death is different. So while his is quite mundane, which is why he appears as an ordinary man, Barbara’s seems to be somewhat more exotic – Death as a beautiful, terrible angel. Barbara exclaims that this is all so fantastic, before asking Kowalski what he is doing. Kowalski explains that he is shifting them in time and space, one of his – their – abilities and is quite necessary. Kowalski informs Barbara that they are charged with collecting every dying spirit on Earth – they literally have to be everywhere at once and this talent enables them to do that.
In an instant, Kowalski, Barbara and Man-Thing are removed from the Citrusville library to a county highway just outside of town. A blue car lies on its side, a woman has been thrown several feet from it. An ambulance is parked nearby and two paramedics are attending to the woman. Kowalski realizes that Barbara still has doubts about what she has become and informs her that the simplest method of eliminating those doubts is also the most brutal. Barbara asks Kowalski what he means, when she sees the accident.
The woman lying wounded on the ground is called Sally Rovere, and she had been on her way home from work when her right front tire blew and the car tipped over. Paramedics reached the scene in minutes and they have been fighting for her life ever since. They’re just about to lose it. Approaching the injured woman, Barbara realizes that she is being drawn towards her and cannot stop herself. One of the paramedics announces that the woman’s pulse is weak and blood pressure is dropping.
Approaching the woman, Barbara’s perceptions alter. The two paramedics are seen as bright, powerful auras, brimming with energy – Sally’s glow on the other hand is almost out, the life force within her nearly extinguished. Barbara realizes that Sally Rovere is in agony and her hand reaches out of its own volition and sets Sally’s spirit free – ending her pain – and ending her life.
But in that instant’s contact, Barbara becomes Sally Rovere. She shares her life – experiences, hopes, dreams, fears, hates, loves – from its beginnings, twenty-seven years ago…to its end. One of the paramedics informs the other that he has lost the pulse. ‘No…’ Barbara whispers, while the paramedic Doug exclaims that this is such a waste, as she had so much potential. The other paramedic, Bran, assures Doug that they did their best, and points out that they are not God – they can’t win them all.
‘NO!’ screams Barbara, tears pouring down her face as the scream is ripped from her soul. Kowalski watches and listens impassively. He’s heard this cry himself, from his own lips when he discovered that he must live the life of each soul he claims. Time and again, John Kowalski has wondered what transgression he committed while alive to incur such an awful karmic debt. He has yet to learn the answer and doubts he ever will.
Again, Barbara feels a wrenching sense of transition as Kowalski shifts the three of them as far from Earth as one can travel – and upon arrival, Barbara’s eyes open to behold Sominus, the Land of Eternal Shadow. This is the nadir of all that is, the bottom of the bottomless pit – the home of the ultimate evil. Their arrival however does not go unnoticed, ‘Intruders!’ shouts a warrior, who calls out for the alarm to be sounded and the guards to assist.
In seconds, the battlements are swarming with warriors culled from the Earth’s past, its present – and its future. ‘In the name of the Master – KILL THEM!’ shouts one of the warriors as the contingent rushes towards the strangers. They are souls as black and twisted and cursed as that of the darkling lord who rules this unholy place – men who kill for the sheer joy of killing – who revel in the infinite cruelty of war.
As one, the army opens fire, and while Barbara and Kowalski are unaffected by the barrage, Man-Thing is swiftly and mercilessly shot to pieces. ‘Stop it! Please! We come in peace! You’re killing him! Stop it!’ Barbara screams, before willing herself atop the wall, and in the blink of an eye, thought becomes reality and she is there. Barbara stands, icy calm, sure of herself and unafraid.
Barbara tells a knight that they mean them no harm and asks to be let past. The knight ignores her plea and without a word, charges. Without a word also, the knight dies. The impact of his body against a nearby wall crushes both armor and skull. Btu that isn’t what kills him. Barbara’s touch alone does that.
The legions of Sominus hurl themselves at Barbara, only to be swept aside with casual, contemptuous ease. Their weapons cannot harm her, while her merest touch destroys. Each death however, has its price. Each means another life that Barbara must experience. Her face remains impassive as the battle wears on, yet, within, her soul weeps. Soon, in the face of such an irresistible force, even the most hardened warrior begins to know fear.
Back outside, Man-Thing has been restored to full form and power. This is a magic place, and he is a creature created in part by magic. Here as in his enchanted swamp, he can never truly be destroyed. Man-Thing is also a creature who reacts to the emotional tone of his surroundings – an empath. The miasmic evil of Sominus itself – combined with the growing, cancerous fear its warriors exude goads the quag-beast to act – with impressive results as he slams his powerful fists into the side of the fortress, the walls crumble, and falling down with the slabs of stone are the guards.
Barbara observes what has just happened and exclaims that although Sominus’ army will be crushed, so will Man-Thing! ‘More deaths, more souls to claim, more lives to relive’. Barbara decides to leave these ones to Kowalski as she thinks he deserves them, while wondering if this is what she has to look forward to – an eternity of claiming soul after endless soul – an eternity of helpless, hopeless rage? Of pain and of grief – ‘It’s not fair!’
Barbara thinks to herself that it is not fair – just as it wasn’t fair that her parents were murdered or that Sally Rovere was killed – or that John Daltry was enslaved by the Magus Sword. Barbara exclaims that while she couldn’t help her mother or father, or even Sally Rovere – she can save John! ‘I love him – I at least have to try!’
Barbara spots the gateway into the fortress’ central keeps and races to it. Kowalski follows, sensing Barbara’s feelings, but not understanding them. All his life he’d been a loner, who cared little for people, expected nothing from them and gave nothing in return. That attitude hasn’t changed since his own death and his assumption of the grim reaper’s scythe. As he follows Barbara though, a sudden noise makes him turn. He half expects another attack, which is why he finds himself smiling when he sees that it is just the Man-Thing, heaving himself free from the collapsed wall.
While the fear felt by Sominus’ warriors ended with their lives, the Man-Thing is once more drawn forward, in part by Kowalski, and in part by a growing, almost palpable sense of evil that emanates from beyond the gates ahead. The swamp creature shudders – had he a mouth, he would shriek in agony – for this emotional barrage hurts him far more – and far more seriously – than the deadliest soldiers’ weapons ever could.
Meanwhile, Barbara has entered the keep and found her long-lost love – along with a sight to freeze her immortal soul. Before her are bodies, warped by invisible mystic chains are some of the most powerful sorcerers and sorceresses on the planet – all victims of the Magus Sword. Dr. Strange the Sorcerer Supreme, the lovely Clea, Jennifer Kale who is a friend of Barbara, and Jennifer’s grandfather Joshua, the High Priest of an ancient cult. Jennifer’s mentor Dakimh the Enchanter is among the victims, as is the Sorceress Supreme Margali Szardos and her daughter Jimaine a.k.a. one of the X-Men’s greatest allies: Amanda Sefton!
Also among those powerful beings is of course writer, Chris Claremont. All the captives are conscious, and Claremont knows each of their abilities – so if the sorcerers and sorceresses are all powerless, what could he possibly do? John Daltry greets Barbara, exclaiming that her arrival is an unexpected surprise, and asks her if she has come to join his modest tableau. With the Magus Sword glowing in Daltry’s hand, Barbara asks her lover what has happened to him.
Using the Magus Sword to draw a sigil of blood in the air above him, Daltry exclaims that he has discovered evil – and that he likes it. Daltry warns Barbara that if she has come to free his “guests” then she is on a fool’s errand. For she must not only deal with him, but with his dread master! The blood sigil grows quickly, filling much of the huge chamber – before vanishing in a clap of thunder – and in its place…’Look on my master, humans, and despair! Behold! THOG, the Nether Spawn!’
Claremont thinks to himself that the demon Thog certainly knows how to make an entrance, and Barbara is impressed too – but not cowed. She is ready and wiling to fight for her man and for the imprisoned magicians. Except Thog never gave her a chance, and before Barbara realized what was happening, she found herself imprisoned in a crystal pillar.
Thog tells Daltry that this will be the fate of all those who oppose his will, and boasts that he was born to rule the cosmos. ‘And rule it I shall!’ Thog exclaims, before remarking that Daltry was the ideal agent, a decent, honorable man whose soul possessed the fatal flaw Thog required – a love of battle, so striking through that chink in Daltry’s natural psychic armor Thog, through the Magus Sword, seized Daltry’s mind and soul.
Thog continues, boasting that, through Daltry, he struck at those powerful enough to defeat him and exclaims that it was a perfect stratagem, perfectly executed with the deaths of these sorcerers and sorceresses, meaning their precious Earth is now his for the taking – as soon will be all of the universe!
Claremont knows that Thog was always one to celebrate his victories somewhat prematurely, for the Man-Thing smashes his way into the chamber. ‘What! No! By the eternal night – Man-Thing!’ cries Thog, before exclaiming that, often he and Man-Thing have fought, and often has Man-Thing’s brainless blundering sullied his grand design. ‘But no more!’ Thog shouts as he engulfs Man-Thing in white-hot flame.
Man-Thing emerges from the flame unscathed, once more miraculously healed by the natural magical “atmospheres” of Sominus. Unnoticed by all, Barbara’s Crystal prison cracks while John Daltry, consumed by his Thog-enchanted berserker bloodlust leapt to the defense of his master. Daltry’s intentions were admirable – at least in Thog’s eyes, but his execution left a bit to be desired as he is easily back-handed by a slap from Man-Thing, knocking Daltry out and forcing him across the chamber so that the unconscious Daltry doesn’t feel himself smash into his lady’s prison. Around Barbara, the cracks of her prison spread, and Claremont wonders why.
Thog realizes that it seems the magic which gives him his strength also protects and sustains Man-Thing, making him virtually invulnerable, therefore, he cannot overpower Man-Thing in his current state, so Thog decides to simply return Man-Thing to the form that he once was. Mirrors suddenly surround Man-Thing, all but one reflecting his horrific visage – that one showed a man – Ted Sallis. The mirrors begins to spin, and with each spin, a Man-Thing image is replaced by one of Sallis.
Thog’s spell builds quickly to its crescendo and it is both more and less successful than Thog had intended. Sallis is restored to his humanity, appropriately confused. ‘Where am I – who are all you people? What in heaven’s name is going on here?’ he exclaims. This is part of Thog’s attempt to kill Sallis and end the threat of the Man-Thing forever – but forces are at work here that even the Nether Spawn is unaware of.
‘Mother! Dr. Strange! All of you – LOOK!’ exclaims the pink-clad Amanda Sefton as Chris Claremont begins to transform into a Man-Thing. Everyone fears insanity and senility – the loss of intellect and of the very capacity of conscious thought. Claremont experiences it now, and as his transformation into a Man-Thing takes place, he does not even have time to scream.
This was the less successful outcome of Thog’s spells. The arcane spells binding Claremont and the mystics no longer hold him as the Claremont-Man-Thing sloshes to the floor, no longer perceiving people as people but as manifestations of psychic energy.
Still unnoticed, Barbara’s crystal cracks and begins to crumble while the Claremont-Man-Thing reads everyone’s Kirilian auras – cool colors, quiet, positive emotions and it feels good. However hot colors, violent, negative emotions all cause pain. Thog, needless to say, filled as he was with rage and hatred – in addition to the pure evil of his primal nature – appeared as the “hottest” red imaginable and the pain he causes Claremont-Man-Thing is excruciating.
Suddenly, all eyes turn to Barbara as her magical prison shatters into dust, and as Dr. Strange explains, all seems that all spells are finite – even magic spells die. The closer to “death” that they get, the less potent they become. Barbara is death incarnate, so the spell touching her accelerated that process of disintegration, as a result, it was merely a matter of time before that natural process of decay set her free.
Daltry lunges for Barbara as he had for Man-Thing – only to fare as well against Barbara as he did against Man-Thing, for Barbara grabs the blade of Daltry’s sword between her palms, and being supremely careful she touches Daltry, inadvertently slaying the man she loves – the man she had become Death to save.
Thog comes up behind Barbara and grabbing her by her long hair declares that it is truly one of the eternal verities – if you want anything done right you have to do it yourself. ‘Too true, Nether Spawn!’ Barbara agrees as she spins around and placing a hand on Thog’s neck tells him to feel her touch, feel her power, ‘Now let’s see if one such as you can die!’
Thog rages furiously, then screams in pain and fear as Barbara steals the strength from his limbs, the light from his eyes. Thog learns that there are but two eternal concepts – existence and non-existence – life and death. In desperation, he summons every scrap of his power to generate a monstrous world-shaking bolt of lightning that is as black and as foul as the soul that spawned it.
The spell does the trick, separating Thog from Barb, but it also reduced Thog’s castle to rubble. Thog recovers from the fall-out first, therefore possessing the upper hand. Magus Sword blazing in one hand, Thog holds John Daltry’s limp body up with the other and offers Barbara a bargain – if she leaves Thog and his prisoners, then he will return Daltry will be returned to her, free of all enchantments, if she continues to defy him, then Daltry will die.
Barbara could hear Kowalski’s laugh and her soul shrivelled as her heart broke. She is trapped. Barbara could save Daltry and lose her world – or save Earth by sacrificing her beloved. Either way, she would lose – but she – and Thog – had both forgotten one unaccounted factor – the Claremont-Man-Thing.
The Claremont-Man-Thing lumbers up behind Thog who exclaims that he has come too far and worked too hard, endured too much to be cheated of victory. He declares that if he does nothing else, then he will destroy this creature. Raising the Magus Sword high, Thog tries – but his spells can not harm Claremont-Man-Thing, and soon Thog is on the defensive. Thog begs for mercy, and Claremont can hear him – but does not comprehend, he only feels the scalding pain caused by Thog’s violent emotions, and the Claremont-Man-Thing sought only to end that pain any way he can.
Suddenly, Thog feels fear – and he is lost. For whatever knows fear burns at the Man-Thing’s touch. Thog’s flesh sizzles under that of Claremont-Man-Thing’s, fear becomes stark terror and flames appear. Thog screams, but Claremont-Man-Thing cannot release Thog. But when the fire finally burnt itself out, Claremont-Man-Thing held ashes in his hands – Thog is no more.
The battle is over, the good guys have won. Barbara turns to bid farewell to John Daltry, but Dr. Strange stops her. Flanked by the other magicians, Dr. Strange turns to John Kowalski, and remarks that, while Kowalski lived, he used people, dealt with them as objects, not as human beings, and asks if he has learned nothing since. Kowalski does not answer, so Strange declares that Kowalski is lonely, in torment, so he would use Barbara Bannister’s love to condemn her, merely to ease his own pain.
Kowalski replies by telling Strange that death – like life itself – isn’t always that simple. Before agreeing that Strange has made his point, and admitting that he abused his power. With that, he releases Barbara from her vow. Any joy that the gathered heroes felt over Barbara regaining her freedom was negated by the sadness that would forever be John Kowalski’s.
Only one task remains, and Strange turns to the Claremont-Man-Thing, informing his fellows that they must release the unfortunate writer, and as he was transformed solely by magical means, a sufficiently powerful counter-spell should restore him. Strange calls for Clea and his friends to add their strength to his, and in an instant, Chris Claremont is returned to how he was.
With that, it was time for everyone to go home. Claremont has never felt so happy – or so humble. He could remember everything that happened, as he had faced elements of his own soul – and of others – that everyone deliberately keeps deeply buried. It was not pleasant for him. Claremont has a feeling that, somehow, he will never be the same person again, and hopes he will be a better one.
A spell of transportation teleports the powerful gathering of heroes to the Kale farmyard, near the focal point of the Nexus of Realities. The Kales have long been the magical defenders of the Nexus, acting in concert with the guardian chosen by the nexus itself – and it is there that learn that some spells are perhaps never meant to be broken…as Ted Sallis is re-transformed into the Man-Thing.
Dr. Strange calls out to Sallis, telling him that he is sorry and reminding him how in the past he has tried to restore his humanity but failed. Strange points out that Man-Thing was created by a unique synthesis of science and sorcery so can only be cured in the same way.
Claremont stands with the gathering of magicians, wizards, sorceresses and mages as they watch Sallis return to the swamp that is both his home…and his prison. Claremont watches the heroes take their leave and thinks to himself “There but for the grace of God, go I” and grieves for Ted Sallis, yet grateful his fate did not belong to him. For Claremont knows now something of what Ted Sallis goes through, but what hurt the most was the realization that he was helpless to change it in even the slightest way….
Back in the bar, Claremont tells his friends that on the flight North from Miami he decided to resign as Man-Thing’s writer as he has felt something of what Ted Sallis is going through, and he can’t – won’t – face it again. Danny Fingeroth exclaims ‘That’s some story!’ and Jim Shooter tells Chris that he understands and has decided to cancel the book all together. Putting on his jacket he remarks that it is better this way, as there are some stories that shouldn’t be told – as there are some that writers shouldn’t be asked to write.
The time is almost dawn, well past the pub’s legal closing time, but the owner had graciously let the Marvel Comics staff talk undisturbed. Chris Claremont follows Jim Shooter, Louise Jones and Danny Fingeroth out of the bar, and turns to the owner, who wishes him a good night – or rather a good morning. Chris thanks the owner and tells him that he will see him around.
With Claremont and the others gone, the owner remarks ‘No, my friend, you’ll not be seeing me again, ever. I am Dakimh, called the Enchanter. Generally counted as a force for good in this wide, wonderful cosmos’. Dakimh reveals that it is he who touched Claremont’s dreams with tales of the macabre Man-Thing, as he touched those of Steven Gerber before him.
Dakimh exclaims ‘Weep not for Theodore Sallis. He knows nothing of his fate. Like John Kowalski he must right the karmic balance that he unwittingly upset by the way he lived his life’. Dakimh remarks that, like Kowalski, this ordeal marks a right of passage in the rising and advancing of his spirit – he grows and matures. As he begins to teleport away, Dakimh adds that, at the proper time, Sallis will re-emerge having attained his full potential as a human being. For Sallis, for Kowalski, for all there is hope. ‘Until then though, the scribes change, the story continues…fare thee well…’.