Why does the Sun rise?
Our age of reason and science answers such questions with an easy confidence: the Sun does not rise rather the Earth rotates as a ball. Previous civilizations did not have the benefit of ocular and mathematical sciences that could detect and explain such profound changes like the rising of the sun. Instead, they created myths with deeply layered meanings and structures that provided a context for the culture.
The Egyptians considered the Sun's cycle as a metaphor for the perpetual cycle of life. This cycle was not an autonomous, abstract concept though. The perpetual renewal of life was a function to important to leave unattended and, fortunately, it was supervised by the Egyptian god, Khepri. This god bore the figure of the Scarab, or dung beetle, which would lay its eggs in animal dung or other dead scarabs. The Sun was Khepri's egg and it was Khepri's duty to shepherd the sun's death each night into the underworld, repository of the world's spiritual dung, where its energy would be renewed in the dawn. Khepri was the catalyst for the cyclical nature of reality but it was also its guardian, and so it is not surprising that this archetype would one day rise and fall and rise again in the form of a superhero: the guardian's of the 20th century consciousness.
In 1994, the Vertigo imprint of DC comics released an eight-issue mini-series called THE SCARAB, loosely based on the Khepri archtype. It was a puzzling, obtuse bridge between DC's typical superhero fare and Vertigo's modern fantasy concoctions. The Scarab was Louis Sendak, an elderly man, reborn as a mystic guardian for his wife's rebirth as a spiritual matriarch. The series was not renewed as an ongoing series but the character returned to shepherd the rebirth of both the Justice Society and Dr. Fate during the JSA's recent relaunch (see JSA #1-5). Later, the character would suffer a final change when it became the soil in which the monstrous King of All Tears could grow (see JSA #18). This episode seems to be the end of the Scarab, but a closer investigation of the name reveals many unnoticed connections and precedents. Perhaps, the Vertigo Scarab is not the end or the beginning of the character, but rather evidence of its continual rebirth. A crack investigative staff on loan from the Hoefstader Center for Metahuman Inquiry has assembled the following report. Judge the facts for yourself.
The 1940s Scarab
by John Mc Donagh
It is worthwhile to mention that, while the Vertigo Scarab is a continuity-implanted Golden Age hero, there was in fact a Scarab character during the 1940's. Although he was not published by any of the various companies that eventually were acquired by DC, as will be seen below, he did possibly influence a character from one of them.
In the 1940's, Pine Publications Ltd. put out the adventures of Peter Ward, the Scarab. Ward was the reincarnation of the high priest of an Egyptian solar deity. In his civilian identity, he was an Egyptologist. To effect his transformation into the Scarab, Ward would press the ring he wore at all times resulting in a dazzling flash that immediately turned him into the Scarab. The Scarab's metahuman powers included being able to fly, super strength, and resistance to injury. The Pine comic books detailing the adventures of the Scarab include EXCITING COMICS#42-48, BLACK TERROR#20, and STARTLING COMICS#34.
It is interesting to note that elements of the Peter Ward Scarab seem to have picked up on by Charlton when they created their archaeologist Dan Garret Blue Beetle from Blue Beetle Volume 2 No. 1 (June 1964). In fact, the 1960's Dan Garrett Blue Beetle had more similarities with the Peter Ward Scarab-academic civilian identity, powers derived from Egyptian artifact-than with the Fox Blue Beetle of the 1940's.
One Scarab story is available online , and another site reveals that there was a Golden Age Scarab.
The Vertigo Scarab
by D LoTempio
As mentioned previously, DC comics published a Scarab series during the 1990s under its Vertigo label. The character was created by John Smith, a writer better known in his native United Kingdom for such creations as Indigo Prime and Devlin Waugh, as well as work on Judge Dredd. Originally, the series was proposed as a revival of Dr. Fate.
In an interview, John Smith explained that the Scarab mini-series was "a long and depressing story paved with poor intentions and misguided efforts. Like I said, it started out as 'Doctor Fate'. I'd been submitting all this stuff to DC and not really getting anywhere when I got a phone call out of the blue one day from Stuart Moore asking if I'd like to take over writing 'Doctor Fate'. I'd never really read DC Comics in any big way - all I knew about the character was from his appearance in Alan Moore's 'Swamp Thing' - but opportunities like that don't come every day so I said yes. Then someone there decided my take was a bit too extreme for Doctor Fate so Stuart asked me to revamp the proposal using a new character and new backdrop. The similarities are pretty obvious and in hindsight it wasn't the cleverest idea ever but there you go. Stuart wanted me to create an alternate Golden Age history, a Vertigo take on all that '40s stuff, which I did, all connected to this big background storyline which was gonna reintroduce all these Lost Heroes to the Vertigo universe, but we had to ditch all that when the continuing series got cut down to an eight issue miniseries. I think Vertigo had overestimated their own selling power and a lot of their new titles just didn't get the advanced orders they expected and from what I understand Karen Berger just said: 'No. Chop it down to a miniseries.' Which, you know, considering it started off as a monthly 'Doctor Fate' comic..." (excerpt from an interview by Grant Coogins.
The credits for all 8 issues of the Scarab are:
Writer: John Smith
Artist: Scot Eaton
Inker: Mike Barreiro
Colorist: Stuart Chaifetz
Letterer: Clem Robins
Editor: Stuart Moore
Louis Sendak is a 78 year-old man with two secrets: he was a 1940s mystic hero named the Scarab and a door in his house is a magical portal to a labyrinth. The former secret has consumed his life and the latter has consumed his wife. These mysteries that have nested in Sendak's life were first infested by his father, some kind of wizard, who scavenged artifacts from the rooms beyond the magic Green Door (a reference to the famous pornographic film of the 70s). One of these artifacts was a football-sized scarab, called Scarabaeus, which bonded with Louis in October 1941 and transformed him into an insect man with special powers. He adopted the name The Scarab and fought a number of sorcerous threats during World War II, sometimes alongside Dr. Fate. His career ended in 1944 under circumstances that Louis cannot remember, but the magic green door is not so easily forgotten.
In 1956, his wife found the green door open and, tempted by its visions, she entered the Subtle Realms behind it. The door promptly closed and locked her away from our world for 40 years. Louis has spent the intervening years impotently trying to unlock the door, growing old alone.
In 1994, an assassin looking for the Green Door interrupted Louis' hermetic existence. He surprises Louse and uses his malleable surgical fingers to eviscerate him. Aroused by Louis' dying breath, the Scarab beckons to him. Sendak places the Scarab to his separated breast and is reborn as the Scarab. Meanwhile, Eleanor has found the exit to the Subtle Realms and the assassin severely injures her. Sendak uses his magical powers to deposit the assassin inside a jet engine.
(Reference: Louis Sendak is probably a reference or nod to Louise Sendak, the children's author famous for the book "Where the Wild Things Are.")
Days after the attack, the wounded Sendak is tending for his wife. The green door now allows Sendak easy access and he keeps his wife there while he searches for her life force. She has disappeared in the maddening web of life - the Labyrinth.
The Phantom Stranger arrives to assist with Louis' "becoming." He warns Louis that the disasters are approaching and that the world will need the Scarab to survive. He helps Louis to remember part of his golden age career and intimates that they have meet previously.
Louis is told that the Scarabaeus is the sacred form of Khepri, the Egyptian deity of rebirth and creative form of the sun god RA. It is a key for unlocking human potential and is an aid to higher consciousness. When next he accepts the Scarab, Louis under goes a phoenix-like transformation: he returns to a physical age of 20, and all injuries current and former are healed.
One fine summer day all the males in Whitehaven, North Carolina decided to walk into The Ocean and drown themselves. The women have a party. This unusual affair attracts the attention of Sidney Sometimes, decadent and handsome journalist/new age huckster. He decides to investigate, but- as below, so above - the magic currents tease the Scarab who also journeys to Whitehaven.
They discover that women who have past puberty are four months pregnant, even those post-menopause. He also meets the last man alive, Marty, who escaped the mass drowning because he was laid up in the hospital with a broken leg.
[Side bar: Marty's explanation seems lame since the pages depicting the mass drowning clearly show other infirm men being taken happily into the ocean by others. Why couldn't they simply carry him? The easy explanation is that Marty was held in a hospital outside the Whitehaven magic but the plot hole is never filled.]
Marty and the women tell Louis about the Ballantyre House. Marty doesn't reveal that a creature - the Rathorach - lives in the house. The Rathorach is the god Pan who has ritually consecrated all the men in town leading to their mass suicide. Marty slips away from Louis and tries to confront Pan, who is busy shagging the elderly Laura Ballantyre. Louis awakens to find Marty bloody and castrated.
The Bacchanal of Whitehaven reaches a fever pitch resulting in an elderly woman having a deadly miscarriage. After cleaning up, Marty tells Louis about the true horror. Laura Ballantyre is the descendent Of Whitehaven's settlers but she will soon be the last because she is infertile. Her desperation to have children called the god Pan to Whitehaven who decides to cuckold the town. He promptly seduces everyone with erotic and spiritual visions.
Ballantyre was also a member of the weird Balkan cult, the SKOPTSKI, and she fused their rite of ritual castration with the satyr. The men were castrated on May Day and, according to Marty, they were told a secret that made them one with god, life and everything. They then went to the beach and committed suicide. Afterwards, the Rathorach slept with and impregnated all of the women.
The Scarab goes to the house and finds the Bacchanauts and is mystically attacked by them and their fetuses. Meanwhile, Sidney Sometimes and Joins the orgy. Scarab escapes the women and runs into an ambush by the Rathorach. Scarab easily repels the attack and the Rathorach reveals that it does not want a quarrel; it was merely jesting (you could have fooled me). The Rathorach is really the god Pan and has come to Whitehaven to die. The children are his bequest to the world - his spirit cast in new flesh - and Eleanor is to be their caretaker. He then dies before the Scarab's luminous eyes, but his spell breaks and the women begin to reconsider their divine conditions.
Jeff Coogan, old friend to Louis Sendak, takes a surprise turn down an alley and ends up in The Secret Garden (Eden). Jeff quickly learns that the garden hides terrible sights because it is really the Torture garden of U-Pe-Han, also Known as Lord Colouris, an angel fallen from eating too many apples from the Tree of Knowledge. Jeff Is caught by the angel's minions and turned in to a grotesque garden attraction.
Meanwhile, Louis returns home to find Eleanor growing ectoplasmic branches and he surmises that she is evolving into a new life form. His ministrations are interrupted by Mrs. Coogan, Jeff's Mother, who asks Louis to find her Son. Louis searches but can not find Jeff. Lord Colouris sends his minions to collect Eleanor, which leads Louis to the garden and Jeff. Lord Colouris and Scarab battle. Scarab literally unlocks Colouris with the aid of Jeff, who gives Louis the Key to the angel's corrupted soul. The unleashed force destroys the garden and Jeff, but returns Louis to the Subtle Realms behind the Green Door.
Many months have passed and winter has hit Long Island (like a coma, according to the text). The Scarab has kept himself busy, confronting such deadly misfit threats as a TV haunted by the 20th century, Mr. Chigley and His Zoo of Shame, the Phantom Barger, The Electric Fetus Machine, etc. Eleanor's ectoplasmic secretions have grown into a mammoth tree. Just a regular season for the Scarab.
A much greater threat looms across the world in Russia as General Grushko and Room 19, an enclave of Russia's foremost thinkers, have started the trial run of the Gloryboys, young men with powerful psychic abilities. Room 19 is using the Gloryboys to test the military applications of a massive psychic scream left behind by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. They decide to unleash the Scream on London, which attracts the Scarab. When he arrives, he is meet by Hilda Routledge, confectioner and part-time spiritualist, who tells Sendak that his wife is coming back.
[Reference note: the Scream over Hiroshima is referred to as a force of fear but it doesn't seem too dissimilar to the American Scream, a force of madness, that appeared in Shade, the Changing Man and the Spectre.]
The London test strike is a success and General Grushko aims the Gloryboys at their real target - the Peace talks occurring in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Gloryboys take over the General's mind and use him to murder the Russian enclave. The Scarab, with the help of the carnal Mrs. Routledge, teleports to the Russian think tank and kills the General, but not before the Grushko turns the Gloryboys up to 11. Telepathic ecstasy engorges the Gloryboys climaxing in a massive release of the Hiroshima Scream. The psychic explosion is felt around the world resulting in a massive fissure between our world and the astral plane. Legions of phantasms spill into our world and the Scarab is unable to halt the discharge. In the midst of the chaos, two bizarre gentlemen appear: Booby Dazzler and Benedict Creed. The men are agents of the Cosmic Coincidence Control Center and they have come to fix the damage.
The Hiroshima Scream has pushed the world to the brink of destruction but the beautiful boys from the Cosmic Coincidence Control Center are on patrol to handle danger. The men seem similar to the Scarab. They explain that they are 12-dimensional mathematical intelligences unfolded into linear time/space and work to safeguard the integrity of the World-Mind. The trio barely has time to exchange pleasantries before the Scream erupts more chaos, rousing the transformed Eleanor. Louis abandons Dazzler and Creed to return to Eleanor, who has abandoned her human form for one that combines the animal, vegetable and mineral. Louis enters Eleanor and the pair engages in spiritual sex. Their orgasm safely releases the pent up frustrations of the Scream thereby ending the threat. Creed retreats back to Cosmic Coincidence Control Center with Dazzler, who has been driven insane by the Scream. Eleanor and Louis have a post-coital discussion about the recent strangeness in their life and she explains that they have become a symbiotic pair: She is the mandala and he is the minotaur. Essentially, they are an organic mechanism for generating new creative urges in the consciousness of the world. With all threats overcome, the pair ventures behind the Green Door and conjoin again.
[Reference note: the Cosmic Coincidence Control Center is a not-so-subtle
steal of Smith's other comic series - Indigo Prime. The series was published
in 2000AD. Smith has acknowledged that he was so sick of the series that
he stole Indigo Prime and used them as a deus-ex-machina ending.]
The Vertigo Scarab in the JSA
by Mike Condon
JSA Secret Files #1
Wesley Dodds tells the Gray Man that the heir to Dr. Fate's powers is one of three babies that are to be born soon. The Gray Man promises to relay the message to Louis Sendak.
JSA # 1
Scarab appears on the last page to ominously tell them that he has news of the rebirth of a hero and the death of the world.
Scarab tells the JSA about the three possible heirs of Dr. Fate and how to find them. After they leave, the ghost of Kent Nelson (the Golden Age Dr. Fate's human host) chides him on not telling the whole truth and they walk through a magic portal.
The portal turns out to lead to the tower of Nabu. Scarab finds Dr. Fate's regalia immediately before Mordru finds him. Mordru beats him easily and rips the Scarab off his chest turning him back into a normal octogenarian who faints from the shock.
Mordru soon after clobbers the JSA leaving only the Star Spangled Kid standing. Kent Nelson contacts her and tells her that she must place Louis Sendak's scarab, the Scarabaeus and symbol of Khepri, the Egyptian god of rebirth on Mordru. She manages to sneak up on the arrogant Mordru and makes the connection bringing back Dr. Fate.
Dr. Fate is shown helping the fallen JSA members, including a still elderly Louis Sendak, recover from Mordru's attacks.
JSA # 17
Sendak's home in Kingston, NY is shown to conceal a gateway to a Lovecraftian dimension called the Subtle Realms. Johnny Sorrow is shown to have captured the still elderly Louis Sendak.
The Scarab is revealed to be the only survivor of Johnny Sorrow's 1944 attack on the seven shadows a team of mystery men who protected Chicago. Scarab only survived because he retreated. He apparently contacted the JSA who joined him in rescuing Sandy the Golden Boy from Johnny Sorrow. He tackled Johnny Sorrow when he was distracted by the Spectre but he teleported away.
Back in the present, Johnny Sorrow injects Louis Sendak in the temple with a hypodermic needle containing a glowing substance in order to make him serve as the gateway for his extra-dimensional master the King of Tears. The King bursts from Sendak's eyes and mouth and through the roof of his house lowering property values in the Kingston area and apparently killing Louis Sendak. I don't have the next two issues in this arc, so Dr. Fate or the Spectre may be able to put him back together again.
by Mike Condon
Roy Thomas created a character called the Scarlet Scarab for the Invaders, a comic that revisited Marvel's Golden Age. He was an Egyptian nationalist who fought both the Allied and Axis powers who were operating in his country.
He received his powers from a scarab that he found on an archeological dig. According to the Gamer's Handbook of the Marvel Universe his powers were the ability to lift 50 tons, flight, strength drain transmitted by touch, force bolts and a force field. He was powerful enough to defeat the original Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner.
He also created the Silver Scarab for Infinity Incorporated, who is Hector Hall, the son of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. The Silver Scarab has one of the most convoluted histories in comics. Poor Hector is corrupted and killed by the Eye of Ra, an old villain of the Dan Garrett Blue Beetle (Infinity Inc. #44). His soul wanders the afterlife and is selected to become the new Sandman, guardian of dreams (Infinity Inc. #49). Unfortunately, Morpheus, the ruler of dreams, returns from captivity and dismisses Hector Hall's soul to destruction. The wheel of Khepri turned in Hector's favor though and he eventually returned as the new Dr. Fate, with the assistance of the Scarab (JSA #3).
Roy Thomas says that the Scarlet Scarab and Infinity Incorporated's Silver Scarab are tributes to Charlton's Dan Garret, the subject of his second professional story. It has been suggested that the adjective Scarlet was added to the Marvel character due to the existence of the Golden Age character.
Roy Thomas's article, which recounts how he created Infinity Incorporated may be accessed here.
Mike Condon, Fanzing's trivia quiz guru, is a librarian who lives in Brooklyn.
is an aspiring writer with a wife, child and dog. He is a closet libertine and
thinks he can sing like Marvin Gaye...on his good days. Wishes he could write
like Nelson Algren. He is also a contributor to our first
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Job Wanted", which can be purchased at Too Many Longboxes.com!