5635 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances)

Modred the Mystic

(Profile #1 - 1975-1978)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Know ye seeker, by the evidence of thine senses… that the flame of wonder doth burn in the world and magic doth live again!


Context

Modred is a very minor magic man in the Marvel Universe, who appeared in 1975. Back then Marvel was revitalising its horror titles, but Modred didn’t stick.

Like Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and others Modred has ties to Mount Wundagore in Transia. He’s also tied to the Arthurian Camelot.

Modred (one R) shouldn’t be confused with Mordred (two Rs), Morganne le Fay’s ally.


Background

  • Real Name: Modred
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: None
  • Group Affiliation: None
  • Base of Operations: Mobile in England ; formerly VIth century England.
  • Height: 5’11″ Weight: 175 lbs
  • Eyes: White Hair: White


Powers & Abilities

Modred possesses consequent personal magic energies, and can tap more from his environment. Most notably, he can receive an even greater power from the Elder God Chthon. Chthon invented black magic and necromancy – at least for Earth.

How powerful he was originally is unrevealed. But after the Ritual of the Darkhold (see the History section) his magic is a super-power. He simply has to concentrate and gesture to manipulate the world around him. His powers seem focused on the elements – earth, water, air, fire, wood.

Since Modred’s magic changes as Chthon’s influence deepens, this era may be an intermediary one. Perhaps he continues using the elemental-aspected magic Gervasse taught him, but with Chthon-backed power. In this framework, he later evolves toward Elder Gods-aspected magic.

A kind of magic

Examples of magical feats by Modred the Mystic during his early appearances :

  • Absorbing flames within his body, or dispersing a demon made of fire
  • Repelling large masses of soil and stone to create tunnels or close them
  • Animating large masses of soil and asphalt to form giant waves, a bit like Avalanche does
  • Animating nearby trees to turn them into dim but very strong “soldiers” following his orders
  • Controlling air to form small but very powerful hurricanes
  • Teleporting over at least a hundred miles. This works even without being familiar with the place he’s teleporting into and if it’s enclosed. Yet one suspects teleportation into an enclosed place is only possible if it is closed by natural elements
  • Levitation
  • Taking mental control of elementals, or destroying them outright
  • Magical mesmerism to make people forget or remember. This is likely limited to memories that these people would wish to forget or remember. Modred could affect an entire crowd this way.
  • Seeing at a glance that Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) was a human being. Though what “human being” means in this case is hazy.

Fire walks with him

Modred seems able to absorb magic fire into his body to reinforce himself. This is a very tentative observation, though.

  • When awoken he stumbles into the enchanted braziers in his crypt. His body just absorbs the flame. One gets a loose sense that it helps him recover from suspended animation.
  • When hit by a flame bolt from a fire elemental, he suddenly claims that he has switched to another dimension where his power has tripled. He can affect the Earth dimension from there. The dimension thing is hazy, but his spells did seem more powerful.

Bite the bullet

Modred may or may not be wearing body armour. The grey parts of his “costume” resemble the way chainmail is usually drawn on, say, Captain America‘s costume. However neither primary nor secondary sources mention chainmail, and there isn’t evidence of such.

On the other hand, Modred does seem more durable than he should. He was once shot in the shoulder by what was probably a .455 Webley round (EV 03, in DC Heroes terms) but fully recovered within perhaps an hour. This was after some amateur first aid in the back of a moving van.

Our DC Heroes RPG stats assume a minor “built-in” regenerative ability, and a high but clearly not superhuman level of durability.

Touched by The Other

Once he’s possessed by The Other, and afterwards, Modred’s magic becomes less elementally-themed. They get closer to generic comic book magic. This will be covered in Modred’s second profile.


A question of time

Modred comes from an unclear era in the past. When awoken in 1975 he stated he was from 1,100 years in the past, so 875-ish AD. However, the Camelot and Merlin he mentioned existed in the late Vth and early VIth centuries, so 500-ish AD.

The simplest hypothesis is that “1,100” years was in error. Modred was clearly confused at that point. The number is repeated in a caption, so if you are a caption do not blindly trust what Modred says. Seriously, caption, you had one job.

A 1989 account by Roy Thomas  and Jean-Marc Lofficier  states that Modred lived “some 15 centuries” ago. So that puts us near the year 500 A.D.., which doth seemeth to be the correct approximation. Plus, Roy and Jean-Marc wouldn’t lie to us.


History

During the late Camelot era, young Modred was the apprentice of one Gervasse, a wizard. Though the two men didn’t get along, they almost considered each other father and son. Modred was also the betrothed of Janice, Gervasse’s daughter.

The aging King Arthur ordered Gervasse to send Modred to Camelot to become Merlin’s apprentice. Both Modred and Gervasse were aghast, as Merlin was rumoured to have gone mad and/or evil. His apprentices were now sworn to silence and forbidden to ever leave.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) with Janice and the Darkhold

(Unbeknownst to either, “Merlin” was an impostor. The unageing mutant known as Maha Yogi or Merlin Demonspawn was impersonating him. He was also manipulating the weakened King Arthur).

(FWIW Gervasse’s hold was *probably* on the Isle of Wight , though it’s not clearly stated.)

The book of Darkhold

The fiery Modred decided to defy the will of his King. By this point Camelot was embroiled in treason and civil war. The Queen had left, and the evil Mordred was warring against the King.

Furthermore, young Modred refused to leave the side of his beloved Janice.

In order to challenge Merlin, Modred decided to study the Book of Darkhold, an atrociously powerful tome of magic. The Book was under Gervasse’s safekeeping, in a remote tower on the Isle of Wight called the Darkhold. The tower had powerful enchantments keeping anyone of ill intent at bay. But Modred’s motives were pure when he entered the building.

When he approached the book, he was promptly corrupted. Modred was also mind-taught invocations to free the power of the book. This was done by a sort of shadow avatar of Chthon, tied to the book and called The Other.

Interlude – origin of the Book of Darkhold

The Book is one of the 4 artefacts of the Elder Gods left on Earth. The rest are :

  • the Ebon Rose (associated with Gaea)
  • the Sword of Bone (associated with Oshtur)
  • the infamous Serpent Crown (associated with Set)

The Elder Gods were the first inhabitants of Earth, god-like beings who sprang from the primal biosphere. They degenerated into cannibalistic demons until one of them, the untouched Gaea, had enough. She had a son called Atum, whom she sicced against the fallen Elder Gods. As the Demogorge, Atum slew most of them – though some could flee to other dimensions .

Chthon, a god of earth, necromancy and evil magic, was one of the few who could flee. He even had time to inscribe a series of scrolls with his secrets. These awful writings would serve as his anchor to one day come back to Earth.

Like the other 3 artefacts, the pages of the Book are indestructible. On occasion they have appeared to be destroyed or damaged, but if needed they’ll just recreate themselves.

Interlude – more about the Book of Darkhold

The Book of Darkhold is oft called “the Darkhold” through metonymy . It has also been referred to as a mirror (since it is the reflection of Chthon’s soul) and by many other names.

Its pages have frequently been incorporated to other books, or collected and bound in a grimoire. In some cases texts by other authors (such as, oh, Mephisto) were added to collections of Chthon’s work.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) in magical suspended animation

The version kept in the Darkhold had been specifically assembled and bound by Morganne le Fay and her allies. But it was too powerful to handle, even for Morganne. Howbeit she did manage to stop Chthon from fully coming through. She magically locked part of his essence into Mount Wundagore.

Morganne’s ally Magnus then betrayed her. He handed the tome over to Gervasse for safekeeping. The reason may simply have been that Gervasse was wise enough not to mess with the Book, and had access to the Darkhold. It may not be Gervasse who built and enchanted the Darkhold, since the origin of the name is said to precede mankind.

The scrolls and pages are mystically formidable and have been around for millennia. They are thus tied to many evil rituals and curses. The most notable of those was the creation of the curse of vampirism, back in the days of Varnae. The likes of Conan of Cimmeria and Red Sonja of Hyrkania also ran into its pages as they were used by corrupt wizards.

Magic slumber, and a saint

When Janice and Gervasse reached Modred, The Other was already manifest as an evil smoke. It demanded a sacrifice. However, Modred hadn’t yet fallen to corruption.

Seeing where this was going, Modred sacrificed himself to save Janice. The Other took his lifeforce, leaving him in a sort of coma.

The Other soon ran into Brendan (later Saint Brendan ), a powerful special agent of the Catholic Church. Brendan had been warned by the real Merlin that the Book of Darkhold was about to be compromised. He reached the Isle of Wight in time.

Brendan took down The Other. Apparently that required no small measure of luck.

Gervasse determined that Modred wasn’t dead, but was being changed and cursed. The wizard had a crypt built, and enchanted it to preserve Modred’s body. The crypt would also “store up [Modred]’s power”, though what this means is unclear.

Meanwhile Brendan attempted to destroy the collected tome. What was actually achieved was to magically disperse the pages far and wide. Whether that made the Book less of a threat than as Morganne’s collection is debatable.

The pages would turn up in many sad, horrific circumstances. One example are the occult efforts of the Werewolf By Night‘s father and grandfather.

Fifteen centuries hence

In 1975, two British archaeologists were working on the Isle of Wight. After lengthy research at the British Museum, they had located the site of the Darkhold. The tower was long since gone, though.

They did reach the crypt holding Modred. Perhaps under the faint influence of The Other, they woke him up.

After telling his tale, Modred use powerful magic to open a tunnel back to the surface, then close it once they had left. Though he could see that the Book of Darkhold had given him great power, he also knew that The Other would be back. This power would likely come with a terrible price.

Magic: the wuthering

The archaeologists, Janet Lyton and Grant Whittaker, took Modred to London. However, the time-tossed man panicked. He caused a major commotion and police response on Piccadilly Circus.

After Modred was hit by a police bullet, Lyton and Whittaker took him to their van. They fled Northward, with Lyton applying first aid.

In the countryside, the van was stopped by The Other, manifesting as a telepathic ball of light. It and Modred fought using magic, and Modred won. Yet his attacks against The Other also hurt him, as The Other was a part of him.

In some unclear way, though, contact with The Other brought Modred under Chthon’s control. This wasn’t apparent right away. The simplest explanation is that it took months. Chthon likely considered that a negligible time span when he recounted the event.

Four elementals and one spider lady

In 1977, two robbers conducted an elaborate heist across London, stealing a medieval-era chest. However, the chest carried a spell, apparently set by Merlin Demonspawn. When opened it freed four powerful elementals. These were tasked with finding Modred and bringing him back into the past to serve “Merlin”.

Modred the Mystic (Marvel Comics) (Earliest appearances) animating trees using magic

The elementals went to Stonehenge. Presumably this structure could facilitate magical time travel to bring Modred back. They took the tourists there hostage, which led to a fight with the Thing (Ben Grimm) and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew). Modred came in – presumably receiving a telepathic challenge from the elementals. But even he was overwhelmed.

After invoking Astoreth (see our game stats for more) then absorbing a magic fire attack, Modred destroyed the elementals. When Spider-Woman mentioned that she wasn’t human, Modred assured her that she was. He offered his help, and mystically restored her memories.

Spider-Woman could now remember her childhood, her disease and the High Evolutionary‘s intervention. Or at least a version of those – see our Spider-Woman profiles.

Modred, on the other hand, soon fell under the thrall of The Other.


Description

See illustrations, verily.


Personality

Modred is a young man of fiery passions. He’d make a truly terrible Jedi. Among his passions were:

  • his love for Lady Janice
  • his desire to be beholden to no man (which likely explained why he could be antagonistic toward Gervasse despite his filial love for him)
  • more than a soupçon of arrogance about his magic skill and willpower

Generally speaking, he also wishes to help and protect people, a bit like a pop Arthurian knight. Of course, he speaks the Marvel Comics pseudo-Shakespearean lingo also used by, say, Thor.

At this point, Modred is a heroic — if a bit flawed — character. He appears to have won his fight with The Other, and one assumes he will keep repelling attacks from The Other as he adventures. That he’s a thrall of Chthon, and in fact Chthon’s very existence, are elements that appear in later years.

Bill Mantlo  and co-creators likely intended him to be a time-tossed magic super-hero. When the character didn’t take, he was repurposed into a tragically cursed victim in an epic Avengers plot. This will be explained in the second profile.


Quotes

(Gleefully) “Didst thou not hear my tale, my friend ? Didst thou not hear me tell that I was a mystic ? The *only* mage to survive the Ritual of Darkhold ! Although it dist, I needs must admit, cost me several centuries !”

“Get thee back, damnable demon of darkness ! Thou hast no old on Modred’s life !”

“Let them scream on as they will — for am I not Modred ? Is not the power of the Darkhold mine own ? Am I not a MYSTIC !?!”

“No ! ’tis not your vehicle that is at fault here… I have heard him call, though I did hope ’twas naught but the wind or the rain through the trees… But that it was him I must now believe, for the words did grip my heart in a fist of iron !”


DC Universe History

He would be a Bronze Age  encounter of the Phantom Stranger, I reckon. His ties to Chthon would be replaced by ties to the Pre-Dead (say, the Demon Three). He’d have bedeviled Zatana for a bit, though perhaps his main enemy would be Felix Faust.

Note that in the DC Universe the existence of Camelot is cyclical. See the profile for the Shining Knight (Ystina) for more. Modred could thus came from a stranger version of Camelot than the standard pop Arthurian one in the vintage Marvel stories.


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Modred the Mystic

Dex: 03 Str: 02 Bod: 05 Motivation: Mixed
Int: 05 Wil: 05 Min: 06 Occupation: Wizard
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 08 Wealth: 000
Init: 012 HP: 035

Powers:
Air control: 11, Air walking: 03, Awareness: 08, Control: 10, Damage absorption: 08, Damage capacity (Physical): 04, Earth control: 11, Flame control: 11, Plant animation: 07, Power Reserve (All Powers): 03, Regeneration: 01, Sorcery: 10, Teleportation: 11

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Mystic-Linked
  • The [Element] Control Powers are routinely used to Block enemy attacks, particularly if they use the same element (+0 FC, this is a normal use of these Powers)
  • Awareness is lowered by 1 CS if the events in question have no tie to the elements
  • Awareness is lowered by 1 Cs (stacking with the above) if the events in question have no tie to the Arthurian Era
  • Damage absorption is limited to enchanted fire ; absorbed energy adds to Power Reserve
  • Earth Control has no AV component, use INT for AV
  • Plant animation has a 2 APs Area of Effect, but only works on plants with 3 or more APs of mass
  • Power Reserve is inert unless fed by Energy Absorption

Skills:
Animals handling (Horses): 03, Occultist: 04

Advantages:
None demonstrated (unless you use the Homo Magi Advantage)

Connections:
None demonstrated

  • -Mystic Entity Connections:
    Ashtoreth (Low)

    Drawbacks:
    Exile (Involuntary)


    Design Notes

    Since he’s empowered by The Other, Modred doesn’t follow the normal structure of the Magic Ranks expounded ‘pon in yon Guide to Marvel Magic.

    Mystic entity connection

    See also the Guide for Mystic Entity Connections. Ashtoreth boosts Neutralize (hostile magical effects only), Air Control and probably Exorcism and other effects that “burn away” impure magic. The effects receive a +1 AP boost beyond the normal Connection bonus if the caster can directly see the Sun, but are penalised by 2 APs if they can’t.

    Ashtoreth is simply a Hellenized variant over “Ishtar”. However :

    • Ishtar has TMK no association with the Sun
    • In the Marvel Universe one should be wary of names as it is common for demons and other mystical entities to ride the coattails of others by claiming a name associated with them. Ashtoreth (or Astoreth) might thus be completely different entity from Ishtar
    • This is especially likely since Ishtar (going by an older name, “Inanna”) is documented in the Marvel Universe as having been tricked into degenerating into a demon. She clashed with Hellstrom and lived in the Underworld, so links with the Sun are… improbable

    Sorcery!

    Modred’s power of mesmerization has a “just so” quality to them I associate with Sorcery, especially since they seem orthogonal to his elemental-themed Powers.

    He could affect an entire crowd, but it can be done with horse-trading Limitations (only to affect memories people would prefer to see edited, -3, balanced by an Area of Effect) and the player could always bullshit something about the spell drawing energy from Stonehenge or the crowd being weakened by the magical transfixation they’d just been through.

    Ditto for his ability to establish Spider-Woman’s nature.

  • Sébastien Andrivet

    Source of Character: Marvel Universe

    Writeup completed on the 16th of July, 2016.

    Subscribe to our newsletter!