Friday, November 18, 2016

A Hero Reborn--The Forgotten One!

The character of Gilgamesh has appeared so sporadically in Marvel stories over time that it's a wonder we still hear from him. Often on the verge of earning the name he's better known by--"the Forgotten One"--he still pops up in one role or another, most recently as a companion to his friend Hercules as they became involved in a conflict with a pantheon of gods known as the Uprising Storm. A creation of Jack Kirby who found a place as one of the Eternals in the title of the same name, the Forgotten One dates back to ancient history, having roamed the Earth and being mistaken for such figures as Samson, Atlas, and even Hercules. Apparently having penetrated too far into human affairs and perhaps allowing his status as a "legend" to get the better of his ego, he was reined in by Zuras, the Eternals' leader, and restricted to a sector of their homeland of Olympia--a sort of "house arrest" that would last indefinitely. It was during this time in virtual isolation that he would become known to his fellow Eternals as "the Forgotten One," an unfortunately appropriate designation which perhaps spoke to his place in history as well as his status among the Eternals.

But during the Eternals' conflict with the Deviants, and with almost all the Eternals occupied in their ritual of the Uni-Mind, the Forgotten One was the only Eternal in a position to help when sought out by the one called Sprite, in order to deal with an explosive device the Deviants planned to deploy on the Celestials' mother ship.

And so with new raiment, the Forgotten One prepares to take his first step back into history, this time to avert catastrophe for all of humanity--for if the Deviant explosive should detonate and cause the ship's destruction, the Celestials' retaliation against the Deviants would possibly annihilate millions on Earth. With the stakes so high, and given how this man has been so shunned by his fellow Eternals, it's to his credit that he steps up and becomes again the hero of old--though this time his reward will not be laurels, but hopefully survival.

The meaning of those closing words from the Eternals story wouldn't become apparent until two years later, when writer Roy Thomas had begun to incorporate Kirby's concepts involving the Eternals and the Celestials into the pages of The Mighty Thor in an extended arc which would culminate in the title's 300th issue. Eventually, in two power-packed issues, the Forgotten One reappears as an emissary of the space gods, thereby bringing him into conflict with not only the Eternals, but with another god who has sworn to stand against the Celestials' judgment which could bring an end to all life on Earth.

Since the goals of the Eternals and Thor are in alignment regarding the Celestials, it's during a summit in Olympia where Thor has joined them that the Forgotten One--now known by the name of "Hero"--appears and makes his new status with the Celestials known to the rest of the Eternals. Recovered in space by the One Above All (the commander of the Celestials' Fourth Host), Hero was healed and given additional power, and now comes to deliver an ultimatum that is not to the Eternals' liking--nor to one other.

There's no denying that Kirby's creations are in good hands with artist Keith Pollard, who would be on the Thor title for the next three years and whose all-purpose style has made its mark on Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, as well. Even with Thor headlining the title and taking the lion's share of combat scenes, Pollard is generous in dealing in the Eternals and featuring their various characters, to say nothing of the Asgardians that Thomas continues to give a good deal of story space to. Thomas must find his hands full with a Pollard job, though Thomas has amply proven that he's no slacker in contributing healthy supplies of either dialog or narrative.

For reasons unknown, the One Above All has been monitoring this battle; and that fact, combined with his use of Hero as a proxy, is perhaps more shocking than Hero's incursion itself, given the Celestials' informal reputation for aloofness. The interference of Thor in their plans has been met by the Celestials with virtual indifference; yet for some reason their level of interest rises with the possibility of the Eternals choosing a side other than the Celestials.

And if the Celestials' behavior here is considered unusual, imagine the head-scratching that results when the One Above All suddenly transports Thor and Hero from Olympia to the Celestials' mother ship, so that the battle may continue there.

For Thor, the change in venue works in his favor, since he desires direct communication with and accountability from the Celestials, and has no desire to deal with middlemen such as Ajak or Hero. Unfortunately, Hero has his orders, and the battle escalates--with Hero taking a position that Thor can't help but to call into question.

Ultimately, of course, it comes down to a question of power. We don't know precisely how much the One Above All has amped up Hero; yet after taking Thor's measure, Hero is convinced that, given a chance, Thor could prevail. As for Thor, he's had no reason as yet to worry about Hero winning this fight, though he freely acknowledges that Hero is a worthy opponent and capable of going the distance. But Thor, like Hero, has his pride--and when Hero diverts his attention to Thor's hammer, Thor seizes the opportunity to bring this conflict to an end. He still, after all, has a Celestial to confront.

Unfortunately, Thor hasn't proven a match for the Celestials in prior encounters, so you'd have to expect a Celestial calling itself the "One Above All" is going to prove to be even more daunting a foe, even for the God of Thunder. And though Thor carries the fight to this Celestial valiantly, it's obvious that he's beyond outmatched; yet he's prepared to battle on, even to his death. Finally, however, the Celestial puts a stop to Thor's resistance, with a shocking image showing a pledge of fealty given a millennium ago.

Thor's investigation into Odin's connection to the Celestials would continue soon enough, when Olympia is invaded by not only Odin, but with Zeus at his side. (While Hercules would finally meet and clash with the Forgotten One--the man who, as Hercules puts it, "stole his thunder" in legends of yore.)

For now, there's still the matter of Hero to deal with, who finds himself returned to Olympia along with Thor but with his role as emissary to the Celestials obviously no longer in effect. It's the Forgotten One who must now face the retribution of Zuras--but his return also reveals that he was battling Thor while managing a disability, a fact that elevates Thor's opinion of this warrior's worthiness and courage considerably and forces him to side with his former opponent against Zuras's vengeance.

It was never made clear (to my knowledge) how Hero was blinded, though one possibility could have been his injuries sustained from dealing with the Deviant bomb. I think it might have been interesting to have connected his blindness to one of the periods where he was mistaken for Samson--in this case, it would have been the Forgotten One who had been captured by the Philistines and had his eyes gouged. That could have also prompted Zuras to finally step in and say "enough is enough" and return with his errant Eternal to Olympia.

As for the Forgotten One's current predicament, it seems a standoff, with Thor likening Zuras's behavior to that of a tyrant, behavior that Thor has first-hand experience with in his dealings with his father. On the other side, the Eternals are steadfastly in Zuras's corner, with only Ikaris standing up for Thor while Thena, a hardliner, all but prods Zuras into striking the first blow. Fortunately, the involvement of Sprite in the Forgotten One's actions somewhat mitigates the dispute--and both sides appear pleased with the solution that Zuras offers.

It may be curious to find that Zuras offers no apology to the Forgotten One--yet Thena is likely correct in noting that Sprite's confession doesn't really change the circumstances that have them all facing each other today. The Forgotten One's decision to set aside Zuras's edict in order to defeat the Deviant threat to the Celestials has no real relevance to this day's events; the fact is that, in the here and now, Hero chose to engage in open hostilities with the Eternals, with the intent to level Olympia as well. All things considered, Zuras probably dealt the Forgotten One a fair hand, once his anger was abated.

The Forgotten One (as Gilgamesh) would in time be plugged into The Avengers for a few issues (as a member) until forced to return to Olympia due to his power being tied to his proximity to the city. Over time, he would work off and on with the Avengers (mostly off), finally meeting his end during the (ahem) forgettable storyline known as the Crossing.

And speaking of the Forgotten One:

Letterer Mike Royer could have "forgotten" his dictionary on those Eternals panels--
here they are once more with some slight fixes in place.

Mighty Thor #s 287-288
(with scenes from #289, as well as The Eternals #13)

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Chic Stone
Letterer: Joe Rosen


Colin Jones said...

There's a weekly show on BBC radio called In Our Time and by coincidence they were recently discussing the "Epic Of Gilgamesh" written around 2000 BC. I missed the show's original broadcast but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I downloaded it to my tablet using the BBC iplayer app. Perhaps I'll have another listen before the download expires (it was only available for a month after the original broadcast).

Colin Jones said...

By the way, I had the second of those Thor issues (#288) - this was only a few months before the amazing "Ring Of The Nibelung" storyline in Thor #294-99 which I absolutely loved and was gripped by.

Warren JB said...

I got into comics years after Jack Kirby left it, so I'm sometimes torn between viewing his art as weird, blocky, insane scribblings; or as veteran fans might describe it, works of genius. Looking at these examples, especially the meeting of Sprite and Gilgamesh, I think that it might be both.

I also think that Sprite's design looks somewhat familiar, but then I don't think Tintin's head ever glowed like a small sun.

And I'm sorry to say that my closest connection to the historical(ly written) Epic of Gilgamesh also involves the line "Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra". I'll have to rectify that sometime.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't noticed that! Maybe Sprite IS Tintin, sojourning among the humans. It would explain why Tintin never got killed.

Anonymous said...

...Say, how would matter controllers like Sprite and Sersi, who also could play with atoms, fare against the Molecule Man? It it the same power except on a lesser scale? Sprite turning an old temple into a spaceship is pretty impressive!
M.P. (I have free time today)

Comicsfan said...

Warren, nice reference! And if you want to go a little earlier than Trek to hear Gilgamesh dealt into a television episode, try the opening and closing segments of this 1964 classic from Harlan Ellison. :)

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