the ending of Steve Englehart’s “The Occult History of America” storyline?

Occult History of America

During the 1970’s Steve Englehart began a time-travel story in which Dr. Strange meets a variety of historical figures including Sir Francis Bacon, whom he revealed not only as having been assigned to choose the Englishmen who colonised the “New World,” but as a telepath and the leader of a secret society of English and European elites, the later leader of whom would become Benjamin Franklin.

“The Occult History of America”, as the story was titled, was written by Englehart for two issues before his deteriorating relationship with Marvel forced him off the book and Marv Wolfman was brought in to finish the storyline in a way that didn’t use Steve’s ideas.

So what were Englehart’s intended ideas for remainder of “the secret occult history of America” storyline?

I’m not sure, but it is interesting that in real life, Benjamin Franklin was infamously associated with the Irish Hellfire Club. So why not in the Marvel Universe proper?!

I would reveal that the initial colony that Francis Bacon was said, in Englehart’s two issues, to have handpicked candidates for, were mutants shipped out of Britain to secretly avoid persecution, since the “secret society” that was the Hellfire Club realised the existence of such beings becoming public knowledge would result in another break-out of witch-hunts, what with their opponent King James acceding the throne.

With all this talk of “secret societies” I would further reveal those Bacon handpicked to settle the “New World” as the Roanoke Colony and that the colony of New Salem are not the “witches” they proclaim to be, but rather the remainder of the Roanoke “mutant” colony. Their reason for not admitting to being mutants is a result of their having experienced the dark times for mutantkind, and fear of again being persecuted.

I would suggest this is why the Scarlet Witch approached Agatha Harkness for tutelage in the use of magical energy, despite the fact that her ability to channel it existed as a result of her mutant powers. How else would Agatha know how to train someone in the use of their powers if its basis was due to their mutation? I would reveal that Agatha Harkness was able to assist Wanda due to herself also being a mutant… as are the colony of New Salemites.

Their being mutants would better explain why all of the town’s inhabitants have powers, and would better explain why Reed and Susan chose Ms. Harkness as Franklin’s governess. That is, it made no sense why they would choose someone who was a practitioner in black magic, when the origin of Franklin’s ability was due to his being a mutant.

However, with Reed and Sue’s knowledge of the emerging prejudice towards mutants at the time, they would have been reluctant to enrol their son in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

But if Agatha was secretly a mutant, she would seem a sound choice, since not only would she have the required skills to train a being of Franklin’s potential, but she would realise the importance of keeping his mutant nature a secret, after having first-hand knowledge of humanity’s prejudicial nature towards mutants.

This could provide a more conclusive explanation for what Agatha was doing mixing it up with the ancestors of the Hellfire Club in that mini from a few years ago. That… and I would love to perhaps make Agatha analogous to the missing Virginia Dare. Now, why on Earth a writer of Neil Gaiman’s calibre never took this approach when he wrote his “1602” series, I’ll never understand, since Agatha would have fitted his “no character created after 1969 will appear in 1602” rule, perfectly.

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8 Responses

  1. Hey —

    Not at all what I had in mind, but very cool nonetheless.

    • Hey Steve,
      Glad you could drop by. Expected it wasn’t what you had in mind, but thought it was a cool way to bring the Roanoke colony into Marvel continuity and effectively resolved the origin of the New Salemites.
      Now we know it’s not what you had in mind, can you give us a hint what you did have in mind?

    • Steve! What DID you have in mind? This is question that has been killing some of us since the late 70′s! I can’t see a $5 bill w/o seeing The Greatest American President Who Was Never President in magnificent Gene Colan form getting it on w Clea.

      Have mercy on your now middle aged fans. What were the plans?

  2. I must be nuts to try to follow a comment from Steve Englehart, but here goes:

    For a long time Marvel’s had some truck with “mutant energy”, a thing that doesn’t really make any sense…what is it, anyway? “Mutant energy”. Whatever it is, it’s convenient: Phoenix and Cyclops visit the Astral Plane, Xavier and Magneto have both travelled in “astral bodies”, mutant energy’s not only detectable by Sentinels but they can somehow have it, too, mutant energy can power big machines, get co-opted into mystic rites of summoning…attract the attention of demons.

    So why couldn’t there be “mutant” sorcery?

    Perhaps that’s what the New Salemites have learned: not how to use their mutant powers, but their mutant energy. So what Agatha Harkness teaches isn’t what Xavier teaches, at all…and it’s probably better for Franklin to have someone like that around too, someone who understands how the mutant energy can reach out and make contact with the mystic energy, the cosmic energy. Someone who understands that all that energy is kind of the same energy.

    An Englehartian notion, maybe? Steve, if you should ever be back around here — man, I miss your comics. But I got a copy of “The Point Man” off the Internet, and I’m eagerly awaiting its sequels!

  3. Whoops, forgot to say…Nathan, the opposition of the names “Virginia” to “Agatha” is pretty much inspired! Nice bit of business, there.

    • pillock, you’re right in mentioning “mutant energy” as it would also explain why the Scarlet Witch sought out Agatha Harkness to learn how to manipulate her mutant energy instead of Charles Xavier. This might further explain why Wanda was a legitimate candidate for Celestial Madonna-hood.
      And speaking of the Celestial Madonna, my next post…

  4. Pulling in such commenters as Steve Englehart and the internets’ own amazing pillock (plok) is a sound feat. Congrats!

    A good idea with Agatha Harkness and Scarlet Witch (ala the New Salemites), and the bit about the Ronoake colony is a perfect touch.

    I would be saddened to see mystical energies – of ANY kind – be tied to “mutant energies”, being a fan of the mystic arts myself, but in this instance, it makes perfect sense.

    Now, as to what the great Mr. Englehart had in mind for his run with the “Occult History of America”, I do not know, but have ALWAYS longed to find out.
    The follow-up issues that Marv Wolfman dumped on us, were lackluster and a slap in the face to Steve, who was building up to something great.

    I would give anything to be able to read what he had planned.



    • Thanks P for your kind comments.

      Like you you’ll note a number of us commenters would love to know what Steve originally had in mind.

      Maybe I will email him to request he contributes a follow up to this post and puts all our minds at ease:)

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