Secret Defenders #15

Issue Date: 
May 1994
Story Title: 
Strange Changes: part the first: Strangers and Other Lovers

Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Jerry Decaire (pencils), Tony Dezuniga (inks), John Costanza (letters), John Kalisz (colors), Craig Anderson (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Dr. Strange fears an upcoming magical threat heading towards Earth. With him being too busy to deal with it himself, Strange gathers the help of Dr. Druid. After implanting the images in Druid’s mind, Druid has no other choice but to help out, though he doesn’t like the idea very much. Accompanied by his partner, Shadowoman, the two leave. At the same time, the dark magic force has reached Earth, and it is Malachi, who gathers some bar fighters by her side, whose minds she manipulates. She has them works for her, in search of the final artifact she needs to complete her Moebius Stone, which will give her more power than she already has. The fighters go to a local museum, where they face Deadpool and Luke Cage. While Luke fights the thugs and defeats them, Wade finishes the job by killing them. After an almost battle between him and Luke, Dr. Druid and Shadowoman show up, and convince Luke and Deadpool to join forces with them. They arrive in a room, where they find a sword and a glowing box. Druid picks up the sword, which holds the final fragment of the Moebius Stone. Malachi appears again, and by using another magic spell, gives life to the images in the statues standing around the heroes, who attack them. While the heroes fight, Malachi and Dr. Druid disappear! The portal remains open, and Deadpool’s adversary throws him in it. While calling out to Druid for help, they realize he has deserted them, and Luke fears that Druid left them here to die!

Full Summary: 

A man reads tarot cards. A high priestess (Malachi) is shown. The woman is ageless and timeless. Next, two lovers (Dr. Druid & Shadowoman) are shown. Their love has spanned decades. Death is next. The reaper is inverted and denied. Judgment (Strange II) will take place. It will be a figure both terrible and dark. Strength will be needed. Two allies (Deadpool & Luke Cage) will be well chosen. There’s also the hermit (Dr. Strange). This is fascinating. It would appear that the fates possess a sense of humor, albeit a grim one. Still… the tarot does not lie!

Once, Stephen Strange might have smiled. But that was a lifetime ago. Now, shorn of his title of Sorcerer Supreme, stripped of much of his personal power, and confined to his sanctum, deep within the bowls of the Earth, somehow, the jest eludes him! The cards of divination whirl forebodingly about Stephen, signaling the start of a new and terrible area. Not surprisingly, laughter is the furthest thing from Strange’s mind!

While meditating, Strange wonders if his burdens know no limit. He has neither the time nor energy to waste on this matter. He uses a magic spell to make the cards vanish. Strange’s guard asks what’s wrong. Strange explains that the signs once again point towards an outbreak of mystical peril. He adds that, since the War of the Seven Spheres began, such occurrences have become more and more common. Strange recalls that, back in the old days, he would have gathered the Defenders to deal with this matter, but he doesn’t dare risk his limited source of powers for this case.

The other Strange wants to deal with it. Stephen doesn’t agree, mentioning that his duties lie elsewhere, as do his. Until Salomé has fallen, Strange thinks they must concentrate their effort on the acquisition of necromantic power. But he fears that if they leave this treat for what it is, it’ll cause a grave disaster. Stephen thinks it’s clear what they must do. He departs in his astral form, thinking that his secret defenders must continue their work, albeit perhaps under the guiding hand of a fresh steward. And Strange thinks that the perfect candidate doesn’t live too far away.

Meanwhile in another sanctum, in a better, brighter part of the world, more precisely in Boston, Massachusetts, are the offices and living quarters of the renowned mystic, sage and scholar Dr. Anthony Druid situated. For the last forty-eight hours, neighbors and passers by have been unnerved by the strange lights and sounds that emanate from within. Though what dark purpose these phenomena serve, few would dare speculate!

Inside his apartment, Dr. Druid finishes the alien spell to finishing renewing a binding. He thinks that the rite should maintain the desired effect for yet another astrological cycle. He wants to take some well-deserved rest now, but never gets the chance for it. Bricks fall down, and Druid notices that someone managed to break through his defenses. It’s Dr. Strange. He calls out to Druid, and claims that he’s needed. Strange tells the doctor that he has been called to serve, which he will do. Strange prepares to merge his mind with Druid’s. Druid gets defensive and demands to know what’s going on.

Strange wastes no time, and puts his astral form into the mind of Dr. Druid. The process is painful, but Druid can now see everything Strange knows. Druid’s third eye turns inward, illuminating shards of his past. Druid sees his past trip to Tibet, and his meeting with the aged lama called the Ancient One, Strange’s mentor. He sees a gnarled hand, which unlocked the potential of Strange’s mind, merging the power of the ancient Britons, which was Stephen’s birthright along with the mystic arts he learned.

Druid sees a hand, which unveiled Stephen’s destiny: to be the mystic harbinger of Doctor Strange! Now, Druid’s mind is assailed by fresh images. He sees a woman, who is unspeakable ancient and unimaginable powerful. She is undeniable a threat to the natural order. Druid feels pain, and a compulsion to act upon this unwanted insight, something that explodes in Druid’s psyche. Druid screams and cries. The spell is complete. The die is cast. The mantle, passed. And from this moment on, Anthony Druid’s life shall never be completely… his own!

And then, as suddenly as the spell began, it’s over. Druid falls down and lands, cursing Strange for doing this to him. Jillian enters the room, and asks Anthony if he’s all right, since she heard him screaming. But sadly enough, Druid has to tell her that not everything’s all right – far from it. He tells Jillian that she knows he is never to be disturbed in his… conjurations. He warns her that it was just such a failure to follow his instructions that led to Jillian’s current condition. Jillian sarcastically apologizes for living… or caring.

She notices that obviously, something big has just happened, and wants to know what. Druid reveals that the only thing Jillian needs to know for now is that there is a threat upon the mystic horizon, one that needs to be dealt with. He suspects that it’s best that Jillian assumes her shadow-form. Jillian does as told, and transforms into Shadowoman! But she has enough of the secrets, and wants Druid to fill her in. Druid explains that he has just experienced a… powerful precognitive flash. How, or why, he doesn’t deem important right now. Druid adds that his vision concerned the Moebius Stone, an ancient artifact of limitless mystic potential that shattered eons ago into a thousand fragments by Agamotto himself.

Shadowoman asks what the Stone does. Druid prays that Jillian will never have to learn that. He adds that with Agamotto absent from this sphere, certain… dark forces… have successfully reconstructed the gem, save for two errant pieces. Jillian jokes that “dark forces” are her specialty, and wants to move over to action. Druid suspects that it wouldn’t fit to act prematurely. He explains that the remaining fragments shall require… defenders… until the time of their arrival. Jillian suspects that Druid will use his powers of persuasion to mesmerize another Shock Troop.

Druid doesn’t think that will work this time. He thinks that today a simple phone call will be enough. He knows that the first fragment lies in Chicago. He plans on contacting the local talent, along with a bit less… scrupulous.


This is a run-down watering hole on the windy city’s south side. The neon sign at the door boasts the slogan “Come down to Bombers and get smashed!” As is the case today, as all the bar’s visitors are in a rumble with each other. Appearances to the contrary, this is an unusual quiet night.

A woman smiles. It seems she has come to the right place. This is such a myriad selection for her, and she has so much raw meat to choose from. Still, she requires more than perhaps a dozen of the most able-bodied brigands for the task at hand. Such a pity, she laughs. The woman casts out a spell, and asks the mortal fighters to listen to… Malachi!

She has needs that must be fulfilled, needs whose satisfaction demands the use of expandable morons like the fighters. She casts out the veil of Morpheus spell, which falls across the fighters’ minds for the duration of their service. Malachi mentions that what she seeks lies hidden in the edifice known as the Chicago Museum of Art. She explains that with Agamotto’s attention focused elsewhere, her methods of acquisition need no longer remain surreptitious. She warns the fighters to act quickly, and seek the object she needs. While the fighters leave, Malachi already senses other forces preparing to align themselves against her. But so long as she wields the greater portion of the Moebius Stone around her neck like a necklace, she isn’t too worried about them.

Later, at the Chicago Museum of Art…

With mechanical precision, six of the fighters start the search like ordered. Unfortunately for them, the walls here have ears! Luke Cage bursts through the wall, having received a tip of the possibility that the museum might be robbed, and he was hired to prevent it. And that’s exactly what Luke shall do.

The fighters walk towards Luke, and one of them hits him. The weird thing is… Luke actually felt the punch! Either way, something is wrong with Luke’s unbreakable skin, or else there’s something more behind the fighters than meets the eye. Luke defends himself and throws the fighters to the other side of the room, breaking one of the fighters’ arm in two, but he doesn’t even seem to feel the pain. More fighters arrive, and they quickly surround Luke. He isn’t certain if he can stop them without permanently damaging them.

Now, a voice tells Luke that he can look ahead and to his left, and the voice tells Luke he can see a stunning example of post-modernist expressionism. And when it comes to expressionism, the voice tells Luke, he has never had a friend like him. The voice has noticed that the fighters aren’t actually playing the game fair, as the strong, silent type is passé in the liberated ‘90’s. The voice suspects its because all those quiche-eating, group-hugging “sensitive” men that rev the ladies motors these days. But the voice beds that the fighters are a smash at Bingo night. But that’s not for the voice. He likes to hang out… on other people.

A man jumps out of the shadows and kicks some of the fighters on their heads, and Luke recognizes the new arrival as… Deadpool! That’s the price of fame, Wade guesses. Autograph seekers, paparazzi everywhere, the never-ending parties… Kathy Ireland’s constant phone calls… that whiny voice of hers kinda gets Wade right there after a while. He joins the battle, and takes out his swords and starts slicing the fighters down. He starts introducing himself. The fighters can call him “dead” as in “doornail,” or “pool” as in “of your own blood!” But nobody can call him “Johnson.”

Luke tells Deadpool he has heard of him, and wants to know what his angle is in this. Wade jokes that he goes where the money is, and with Clinton’s health plan around the bend, good medical benefits are a definite plus. With everyone defeated, Luke is certain that they didn’t pay Wade to kill their adversaries! Wade defends that at least he’s up front in his line of work. Its “heroes” like Luke that give mercs like Wade a bad name. Luke is ready to fight Deadpool, but gets interrupted by Dr. Druid and Shadowoman, who step through a portal. Luke wants to know what they are doing there.

Druid explains to the gentlemen that he is their benefactor and employer. Deadpool recognizes Dr. Druid as the Rod Serling of the Celtic set and, by now, Wade suspects, Druid should know better than to involve him into hero affairs. He wants to leave. Dr. Druid asks Wade to calm down, as he recalls that Wade has performed… services… for him in the past. Druid mentions that he is aware of the recent “epiphany” Wade achieved, meaning the realization that his talents could be used for a lot more than useless slaughter.

Druid asks Wade if he truly wants to turn his back upon a menace of global proportions. Wade hesitates, but agrees that he can’t do that. But, he’ll expect the usual fee delivered on the usual place. Druid agrees, and they walk away. Luke can see why Deadpool’s name is spoken in hushed whispers. Wade doesn’t care about Luke’s opinion, and follows Druid and Shadowoman. Jillian asks Druid if that was really necessary. Druid confirms. He mentions that the two of them are ill-equipped to face a conflict corporeal. And Wilson was already poised on the edge of acquiescence. Druid merely gave him a psychic nudge to insure his decision.

Soon, they arrive in a large room, with a small, glowing box in the middle of it, and a sword guarding it. Druid mentions that the item they seek lies hidden somewhere within it. Luke adds that he has never heard of the Sword of Iskandar before. Druid adds that it isn’t the sword that’s important, but what it contains. He warns the others to stand back. He touches the sword, which glows and flows energy of it! Deadpool hopes that the doc knows what he’s doing. An alarm goes off.

Druid asks the others not to pay attention to it, as they’ll be gone before the authorities have arrived. He informs that their foe is approaching as well, seeking for this very gem, which is encrusted in the sword’s hilt: the penultimate fragment of the Moebius Stone! Luke doesn’t care if Druid is paying his bills, but he won’t let Druid take the sword away from the museum.

Suddenly, an energy beam hits Druid, and the culprit calms Luke that Druid won’t be able to do that. It’s Malachi! She explains that the talisman, and the power within it, belong to her! Druid recognizes Malachi, as she is the woman from his earlier vision. Druid soon gets up again, and warns Malachi that she underestimates the forces she trifles with. He knows that the Moebius Stone isn’t something meant for mortal hands. Malachi doesn’t care about that. She has spend too many centuries in search of the Stone, and that her uses for it is justified, as she is doing it for love!

Deadpool, Luke and Shadowoman aren’t interested in whatever Malachi wants: they won’t let her take the sword and are ready for a fight. Malachi won’t let that stop her. She explains that with age, her wisdom about the magic arts have grown, and thanks to that, she can use a spell that makes the images in the statues around the heroes come alive, and they attack the heroes! Malachi laughs, as this gives her the chance to continue her quest. She opens a portal and disappears through it.

The heroes get attacked by a giant minotaur, lizard, werewolf and artistic figure. Deadpool takes a close look at the minotaur, and jokes that he always wanted to have a Megazord like that for Christmas, but never got one. Luke warns Wade to stand away and let him fight the creature, as he always wanted to battle a sculpture. That’s okay by Shadowman, who jokes that in her opinion, this museum should have its artistic license revoked. Luke tries his best to defeat the creatures, and though he manages to slam some of them down the ground, they always manage to stand back up again.

While more creatures appear, Wade continues fighting his size of the monsters while singing the theme tune to the Power Rangers. But, one of his adversaries picks Wade up, and tosses him towards the still open portal! Wade calls out to Dr. Druid, asking for his help, but… the doctor is nowhere to be found! Luke fears that Druid has betrayed them, and left them here to die!

Meanwhile, in his far-off sanctum, Stephen Strange watches impassively as the tableau unfolds before him. All goes according to plan. For, though Doctor Druid fancies himself the magician, the tarot card Strange holds does not lie: on the card, the word “fool” is written, and Druid’s face is shown.

Characters Involved: 

Deadpool, Dr. Druid, Luke Cage, Shadowoman (all Secret Defenders)

Dr. Strange

Strange II (the demon)


various demons (all unnamed)

various fighters (all unnamed)

in Druid’s mind to Dr. Strange’s past:

Dr. Druid (in Strange’s body)

The Ancient One

Nabula (face unseen)

various demons & mystical creatures (all unnamed)

Story Notes: 

Shadowoman is a lesser-known Marvel character. Her real name is Jillian Marie Woods. Her first appearance was in Quasar #45, where she was a member of the Shock Troops. She exists in a shadow form, which is all that remains of her soul. She can tap into energies similar to the Darkforce, used by several other Marvel heroes like Darkhawk and Darkstar. With the force, she can create shadowy constructs such as giant claws. Besides being a heroine, Shadowoman is also an occult investigator, and possesses many mystical artifacts at her home and later became a student of Dr. Druid.

The War of the Seven Spheres Dr. Strange mentions can be found in Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #48-49.

Dr. Druid’s similar origin to Dr. Strange was revealed in Marvel Spotlight #37.

The other story behind the other “Strange” besides Stephen can be found in Dr. Strange: Sorcerer Supreme Annual #4.

The “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” was the best watched TV show of the early ‘90’s, and was about some teens who could transform into heroes, called “the Power Rangers”, and received special powers upon transformation to battle their enemies. The “Megazord” Wade mentions was their tool used to finish off their enemies. The Megazord was the biggest thing on the “wanted” list kids wanted for Christmas around the time.

Kathy Ireland is one of the supermodels of the early 1990s and once had her own line of clothing sold at K-Kmart.

Deadpool’s reference to the “Clinton’s health plan” refers to the proposal for an American national health care service, which then Governor Bill Clinton campaigned on during the 1992 presidential election. After winning, Clinton assigned his wife, Hillary Clinton, to head the task force, which submitted its proposal to Congress on September 22, 1993. However, despite his party controlling both houses of Congress at the time, Clinton’s plan never gained traction and was announced dead by Senate Democratic leader Bill Mitchell in September 1994, an event which had not yet taken place during the publication of this issue.

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