Prester John and the Evil Eye of Avalon
This article is the second in a sequence of three. It goes :
- Prester John and the Evil Eye of Avalon 1/3. Start there.
- Prester John and the Evil Eye of Avalon 2/3. This here article.
- Prester John and the Evil Eye of Avalon 3/3.
This series is a deep dive sort of read. I’ll make it as clear as I can, but it’s not light reading.
Avalon, hoo hoo hoo hoo
In the 1966 telling, Avalon seems to be a techno-magical place. It resembled many versions of Ancient Atlantis.
It had “mighty machines harnessing natural forces”. But said forces had “destroyed their own land” and “caused them to vanish forever from the sight of men”.
Avalon’s “wizards” (sometimes “alchemists”) also had conquered “enemies”.
King Kamuu, everybody wanna cut the land off him
That could match another account. The ghost of King Kamuu of Atlantis once described parts of Atlantis surviving as islands, with one named Avalon.
But the similarities are, at best, limited.
Furthermore, Kamuu’s description had weird discrepancies of its own. Such as a statement that Igraine and some of her daughters (including Morganne le Fay) were born circa 10,000 BCE or 8,000 BCE.
(As explained in our Modred the Mystic profile, the King Arthur era took place circa 500 CE. Igraine is Arthur’s mum, so Kamuu’s account would imply unusual logistics. Such as time travel, suspended animation or cyclical mythological motifs).
Does a choice exist ? No, of course it doesn’t. At least not from a Western European perspective.
(The eerie soprano vocals are by Haïtian singer Yanick Étienne. Who famously joined that recording session by utter, complete happenstance.)
Dread druid dudes
In 1982, the Avengers were pressed by Dr. Druid (Anthony Ludgate) into time-travelling to the dimensionalOther realms of existence that are not our universe. island of Avalon. They witnessed the empowering of the Eye of Avalon, a.k.a. The Evil Eye.
This Avalon is an island between the Earth Dimension on one side, and the Dark Realm of the Fomors on the other. It knows but an eternal Spring, and was settled by — presumably Celtic — explorers led by the druid Amergin.
The settlers used magic and song to prevent the Fomors from crossing over. But they eventually faltered.
When the Avengers came in, Avalon had been ravaged by the Fomors. The sole survivor seemed to be Amergin. The landscape looked like a World War One battlefield, and a plethora of strange planets was easily visible in the sky.
Thanks to the Avengers, Amergin could charge his Eye of Avalon artefact using the energies of Balor. The Black Knight (Dane Whithman) then closed the access from the Dark Realm.
Druid dudes discrepancies
- The Avalon that Prester John described seemed quite different, more super-sciencey, than the heroic-fantasy-like Avalon seen in 1982.
- The Black Knight stated that it was the XIIth century. That’s impossible to reconcile with Johann starting his explorations (including China and perhaps South America) in 1199.
- This Avalon was destroyed by the Fomors, not “natural forces”. And Amergin seemingly died just after charging the Evil Eye, presumably leaving no wizard or alchemist on Avalon.
- If the Knight maxed out the power of the Evil Eye, it logically should have sundered into six far-flung fragments. Reuniting them would take time.
Furthermore, Prester John later states that the inhabitants of Avalon perished due to a “plague”. This could work with “Kirby super science Avalon” (say, radioactivity) but not “druidic Avalon”. Unless it’s a needlessly weird metaphor about the Fomores.
(Mind, Irish myths have lots of needlessly weird metaphors.)
So it seems likely that there exists a missing story between the fall of Amergin, and the island that Prester John discovered.
- Perhaps advanced science types (Inhumans ?) settled and restored the land of Amergin’s people soon after their fall. But died due to some “parting gift” of the Fomorians.
- Or perhaps the descriptions of Avalon experiencing an eternal Spring is a weird way of saying that time there isn’t linear.
- Or perhaps “Avalon” is a characteristic possessed by a handful of places, rather than a toponymThe name of a place..
- And so on and so forth.
Marvel Comics now considers Amergin’s Avalon to be part of the dimension of Otherworld.
The Otherworld is a sort of magic-rich reflection of the British Isles. It was mostly seen in Captain Britain (Brian Braddock) stories.
Secondary sources therefore ignore the “plague” angle. They instead pin the blame on the island fading from Earth-616The main Marvel Comics version of Earth. to drift into the Otherworld.
Land of confusion
Many of the features found in mediaeval descriptions of the Kingdom of Prester John were apparently reality on Avalon. Walls of fire, seas of sand, waterless rivers of stone, flame-breathing salamander-like dragons, etc..
Before they died, the “wizards” of Avalon built a suspended animation device called the “Survival Chair”. They also gave John the Eye of Avalon super-weapon.
The goal was apparently to have somebody live on and tell the tale of what Avalon had been. Perhaps there was no time for a better plan as everybody was dying.
(The Chair of Survival has some *vaguely* hieroglyphics-like symbols on the front. These seem Avalonian in nature, as opposed to having been added later.)
History (part 2)
Before he could sit on the chair, Prester John was confronted by Kang the Conqueror. Kang wanted to recruit him as the bearer of the Eye.
But they soon had a falling out. Kang therefore cast Johann back in time and space — to West Francia in 911 CE.
Soon, Johann was a sort of vizier to King Charles II the Simple.
It was presumably in September, since the Franks seemed about to negotiate with Rollo (Hrólfr)’s Vikings the infamous Saint-Clair-sur-Epte treaty.
(Incidentally, this comic reproduces a common mistake. “Carolus Simplex” doesn’t mean that he was stupid, but something closer to “honest, authentic”. It was later propaganda by his victors that claimed that he was a dimwit).
However, John intended to derail that. He would have the Franks and himself wage war and subdue the Vikings. Then rule an expanded West Francia using Charles as a puppet.
Which, yes, would have been a huge divergence point in European history.
I would have words with thee
However, that intersected with one of the Avengers’ clashes with Kang. Thor (Eric Masterson) was cast back in time, near Prester John. But he failed to stop him right away.
After forcing King Charles to become his vassal, and with Rollo in chains, Prester John started terraforming swathes of Eastern Normandy into the likeness of lost Avalon. Which I’d argue was an improvement.
As Prester John was rambling about how he would conquer the world, Thor freed himself and attacked anew. But, seemingly due to Kang’s interference, his lightning bolt unexpectedly cast Johann forward into time.
The mercy seat
Thor assumed that the Prester and his Chair of Survival were chronoportedTravel through time. back to Avalon. Where John proceeded to enter suspended animation as he had intended to before Kang showed up.
This doesn’t seem that likely. When he resurfaced, Prester John’s behaviour was quite different. So either :
- He had more experiences in the ruins of Avalon before finally booting up the Chair.
- He had vivid experiences (dreams ?) while in suspended animation.
History (part 3)
In 1966, Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot accidentally found the deep underground crypt where Prester John slept.
Though it’s hard to tell the location, my best guess would be the Nubian Desert . Northern Eritrea, maybe.
How Johann and the Chair of Survival ended up there is a mystery.
But it’s worth noting that Ethiopia was where Prester John’s magic kingdom was reputed to exist, once all other areas had been conquered. So having Prester John be found in the Horn of Africa might be an allusion to that.
(It can also evoke the Blue Blaze (Spencer Keen), whose grave inexplicably and subterraneanly moved around.)
When Wyatt and Johnny got in, Johann awakened.
Johann and Johnny promptly got into a (metaphorical !) schlong-measuring contest.
As they threatened each other with how big their energy blasts were, Mr. Storm realised that the Evil Eye might be able to free the Inhumans. These were then trapped behind a super-barrier invented by Maximus the Mad.
In a burst of manic speed, Johnny seized the Eye and flew out. However, the safety wasn’t on. Johann warned Wyatt that the Eye would explode well before Johnny would reach the Inhumans.
Using a Wakandan vehicle and laser gun, Mr. Wingfoot shot the Eye out of Johnny’s hand.
He thus narrowly saved his friend, as the blast vitrified a large chunk of desert.
Avengers / Defenders war
However, the Eye wasn’t destroyed. It split into six components. These ended up in Japan, French Polynesia, Bolivia, Mexico – and the US (two fragments).
This attracted the attention of the dread Dormammu. In 1973, he and Loki (Loki Laufeyson) pitted the Avengers against the Defenders, manipulating both teams into reassembling the Eye.
For a while, Earth was overwritten by the Dark Dimension, resulting in a global crisis.
But Dormammu was eventually staggered by the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) and traitorous Loki. The beam from the Eye then destroyed him for a time.
Still holding the Eye, Dr. Strange and his Defenders then ventured into the past. They sought the Black Knight (Dane Whitman).
Whitman had been fighting during the Third Crusade. This was part of a contingency spell by Merlin, to oppose any return of the evil Sir Mordred.
Magically reincarnated in the late 1100s, Mordred had allied with John, Richard’s treacherous brother. He and John of England had travelled to Palestine, where they allied with a powerful Middle-Eastern wizard named Chandu.
(John is also the “John Lackland” from Robin Hood stories. The guy who reigns badly while Robin and the Merry Men hope that King Richard will return.)
Their plot resulted in Richard being captured by Saladin’s troops. Though the Black Knight and the Defenders intervened, they were nearly defeated by Chandu’s “mega-gnomes”.
Prester John then chronoported in, narrowly preventing John of England from using the Evil Eye against the Defenders.
The time traveller then convinced Dane Whitman to remain in the past. From there, he used the Eye to return the Defenders to the future.
A bit more time travel
During this scene, Prester John seemed markedly older than he was in 1966. Though it’s down to him having a white moustache – his helmet covers a lot.
So it seems possible that the Prester John seen during this scene comes from what is, as of 2021, the future. Or… or it was a colouring mistake.
Furthermore, how the Evil-Eye-less Prester John travelled back is unrevealed. Potentially, it may have taken him decades to sense where and when the reconstituted Eye was, and to secure means to time travel.
It also meant that there were now two Prester Johns in 1190s Palestine. The period one, who had yet to discover Avalon, and the future one, who had just recovered the Evil Eye.
Upon seeing King Richard and the Black Knight ally, future!Johann knew what would happen. As past!Johann would soon return to the King’s side and join their adventures.
Quand t’es dans le désert depuis trop longtemps
Meanwhile, back in 1966…
Johann simply left to wander the desert after the Evil Eye exploded due to the Torch’s impulsiveness.
Despite this strange choice, he lucked out. Bedouin rescued him, considered that he was a god, and made him many offerings.
(Now, this is turbo-orientalism . Bedouin have plenty of contact with modern cities, are overwhelmingly Muslim (and has thus sworn the shahada ), do not to my knowledge range as far South as Sudan (never mind Eritrea), and do not generally carry around cut gemstones the size of a bloody pomelo.)
(One possible fix is that these guys weren’t Bedouin. Perhaps they were Egyptian nomads cursed centuries ago to wander the desert forever, and guard certain accursed jewels with their lives. Bonus points if you can involve the Sphinx (Anath-Na-Mut)).
I’ve got the power (stone)
One of the gifts was the Stone of Power, a potent artefact. It gave Johann great power, but also corrupted his mind.
While the nomads were in the Negev desert , Johann had a murderous megalomania episode. He slew them all.
But this also damaged the ground, and he fell into another deep underground complex. Once the air ran out, the Stone of Power placed him into suspended animation.
(I’m not sure how difficult it would have been for nomads accompanied by a strange man in chainmail to cross from Egypt to Israel back then. Since it was presumably not long before the Yom Kippur War .)
(No-Prize HypothesisA made-up explanation to plug a plot hole. – the Stone deliberately had John fall into that tomb, and knew all along it was here. There was some energy within the tomb that the Stone needed to absorb over several years, so it could leave Earth).
Free from desire
In 1975, a Stark Industries project accidentally unearthed the crypt.
The power-mad Prester John was engaged by Iron Man (Tony Stark) and the Thing (Ben Grimm), who was helping as a test pilot.
They eventually managed to get ahold of the Stone, who left for space.
Everybody then congratulated themselves about how well things had turned out. Since obviously no-one cares about an entire tribe of nomads having been slaughtered.
The Stone of Power
This huge gemstone is implied to have been an alien and/or otherdimensional creature, with a form of sapienceCapable of intelligent reasoning..
It is possible, but not likely, that it had ties with the Lifestone Tree construct.
The Stone is a green, faceted gemstone, the size of a large pomelo.
- It has existed for aeons, and likely is immortal. One assumes that it’s also nigh-indestructible.
- It could influence minds, fanning some of their more destructive penchantsStrong tendency to behave in certain ways..
- It sprung into action once it was given to Prester John, but not before. Presumably, John’s distinctive properties were necessary for the Stone to work with.
- It apparently couldn’t leave Earth on its own. It had to be given a “boost” by being thrown up with enough force to achieve orbit. Once this velocity threshold was met it could accelerate itself to, apparently, quickly reach FTLFaster than the speed of light. speeds.
The Stone was used for the following powers :
- A devastating tornado killing many people, and hammering the ground.
- Placing the wearer in suspended animation, then waking them when appropriate.
- Forcing people into a kneeling position, then mostly paralysing them. The effect could be broken by a good jolt of pain.
- Levitating upward, but at a modest speed.
- A beam of concussive force. Maybe. It’s hard to say from the panel.
- Super-strength and matching durability. He did not seem quite as strong as the Thing (Ben Grimm) was in 1973, but he was close to a “Class 75“ level.
- Reinforcing his sword (and presumably his chainmail) to match this augmented strength and durability.
History (part 4)
In 1990, Morgan le Fay and Mordred were in possession of the Eye of Avalon. From *when* they procured it is unrevealed.
While in another dimension, Morgan used it to summon/reconstruct Balor. This seemingly made the Eye inert, though Balor may not have had his full power returned.
Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange), the Black Knight (Sir Percy of Scandia) and the Valkyrie (Brunnhilde) narrowly defeated Balor, by smashing the Evil Eye using the Ebony Blade.
*Presumably*, the Eye then split into six parts that dispersed widely.
Covenant of the shield
In 2000, the Shaper of Worlds petitioned the cosmic powers to create a variant Earth, called Eurth.
He was allowed to proceed, tapping four sources of inspiration to transcend his limitations. These were :
- Glorian, who provided light and life.
- The Stranger, who provided mystery.
- Some random nerd boi, who provided a template to have echoes of Marvel characters.
- Prester John, who provided his memories of Avalon.
Prester John himself lived on Eurth as a bookkeeper and scholar, also called the Keeper of Memories.
Describing himself as a very old and weary man (though he seemed 40 at most), he seemed to simply want to live peacefully in New Avalon.
John also educated St’vaan Junior. He was the son of St’vaan, the “echo” of Captain America (Steve Rogers) ruling New Avalon.
In 2003, an experiment by Krona created a breach between the Marvel and DC Universe.
The Grandmaster (En Dwi Gast) and Metron announced that 12 items (six from each universe) were needed to contain the damage. That included the Evil Eye.
These items weren’t necessarily ultra-powerful. For instance there was the Orb of Ra, associated with Metamorpho (Rex Mason). And though most were magical, not all were. For instance there was the Ultimate Nullifier.
The Eye was located on Themyscira. Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff) nearly got it, but the Flash (Wally West) overtook him.
After Krona nearly killed him, the Grandmaster used the artefacts to fuse the two universes and trap Krona in-between. However, that was unstable.
Furthermore, Krona got free, seized the artefacts, and started working on collapsing everything to become the Galactus figure of a new reality.
In the end, an enormous assemblage of heroes restored both universes to what they were. The Evil Eye thus presumably returned to when and where it had been on Earth-616.
In 2005, Cable (Nathan Summers) built a floating super-tech city in the South Pacific, called Providence.
Numerous experts were invited to debate at length about new ways of organising society.
Prester John was among them, claiming that Providence resembled Avalon. He mostly hung around with Rabbi Rosen, and ex-reporter/Providence coordinator Irene Merryweather.
He seemed to be a changed man. The simplest hypothesis is that he was transformed by his life on Eurth, as he had seemed to seek.
It was stated that he came from “the past”. People also emphasised that he was a time traveller.
Scholar and enforcer
Prester John was put in charge of the multi-religious study groups. These were part of the required training for Providence’s “citizens”.
He also was willing to be deputized by the security if need arose.
In the latter capacity, John twice pursued Deadpool, who had committed a murder on Providence. But Cable stopped the Prester before he would pound Deadpool into paste.
John continued to help Providence for months, backing the security and/or Cable’s allies when necessary.
However, in 2007 Providence was hit by a super-weapon called the Hecatomb, and had to be destroyed. Prester John worked with Cable, Domino (Neena Thurman), the X-Men and others to evacuate as many as they could.
In 2010, Prester John attended the burial of Cable.
Also in 2010, another Evil Eye was briefly seen on Earth-1610, the “Ultimate” version of the Marvel Universe. It was presumably destroyed along with that universe.
In 2013, the Evil Eye was seen in Nick Fury’s “Doomsday Bunker”, hidden in the Savage Land. There were other major artefacts (such as an Ultimate Nullifier, or Doctor Doom’s time machine), so it is possible these were procured from alternate realities.
In 2021, the Eye was among an alternate Earth’s most powerful weapons. This parallel reality had disarmed, as had other major space powers. The great weapons were therefore now museum pieces.
But this entire reality was destroyed by Doctor Doom.
In the last third we’re going to discuss the Omega Council, the Death Celestials, the Concordance Engine, Johann’s characterisation and the game stats.
Source of Character: Yonder Marveille Comicks.
Writeup completed on the 28th of June, 2021.