Real Name: Kulan Gath
Identity/Class: Human magic-user (Hyborian Era)
Occupation: Sorcerer, former pupil of Thoth-Amon and disciple of Set, former disciple of Queen Xiombarg of Chaos, former Priest to Shuma Gorath, High Priest of the N'Garai
Group Membership: None
Armati, the "Elder Gods",
Prince Gaynor the Damned (former ally under Xiombarg), the N’Garai,
Ormuz, Razal Gulath, Set
(his god), Shah Amurath, Shuma-Gorath, King Strabonnus, Terhali the Green
Empress of Melnibone’ (resurrected by Gath’s magic),
Thoth-Amon (possibly his former mentor--see comments), Vammatar
Xiombarg the Queen of Chaos (former patron), prince Yezdigerd;
the Kamekeri Indians, the Morlocks (former minions);
Godrick and Yaila (former pawns)
Gus Hovannes (former host)
Hobb and Conan (alliance of convenience)
Enemies: Arioch the Duke of Chaos,
Arkyn the Lord of Law, Avengers, Conan,
Devourer of Souls, Doctor
Strange, Elric of Melniboné,
Fafnir Hellhand, Kulan Gath, Ispirana,
the Kozaks, New Mutants,
Peliali, Red Sonja,
Selene/Black Queen, Shuma-Gorath, Spider-Man, Terhali, Thoth-Amon, Vammatar,
X-Men, Zephra, Zukala, Zula
- - one gets the impression Kulan Gath made a lot of enemies, eh?
Known Relatives: Vammatar, Armati (former wives)
Base of Operations: Currently unknown, possibly the Dark Realm of the
Formerly Stygia; the ancient city of Yagala; Zahmann; Mount Crom; Manhattan, New York; Costa Verde
First Appearance: Conan The Barbarian#14 (March, 1972) (face), Conan the Barbarian#15 (in action) (May, 1972)
Powers/Abilities: Kulan Gath
possessed the ability to tap into and manipulate magic on a level approaching
that of the Earth dimension's most powerful mage Doctor Strange. Deriving
power from ancient N'Garai demons and the lives of sacrifices, he could call
up demonic entities, transform entire cities and their populations into Hyborian
Age equivalents, mesmerize individuals, project lasers of mystical force,
and manipulate and restructure flesh and bone. He proved capable of returning
from death via his amulet.
On occasion, Kulan Gath animated a "Bone Dragon" for long distance travel.
Weaknesses: Kulan Gath’s powers and essence reside in an enchanted amulet/necklace. While this allows him to possess and transform whoever wears it into a likeness of himself, making him effectively immortal, his influence can be resisted by those possessed of a sufficiently powerful will. If the necklace is properly contained or abandoned in a sufficiently remote area he is trapped without the means to influence the outside world.
Note: Kulan Gath's original form was somewhat different than the form he took in his second appearance (MTU#79 was his next appearance after CtB#15 in real time). Apparently, the necklace allowed him to be resurrected, and to transform others into his likeness. It appears he created the necklace after the destruction of his original form, and he could not recreate it (more likely, he chose not to waste the energy).
History: According to Kulan Gath, he once held a position of primacy among the sorcerers of Stygia, during the Hyborian era.
(Conan the Barbarian#258 (fb) -BTS)-Kulan Gath acquired the key to the Iron-Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath in Keshatta, the City of Magicians.
Barbarian#258 (fb) ) - Kulan Gath was an unfriendly rival to Vammatar, a sorceress
of Hyperborea. In a valley just south of the Graaskal Mountains, in Brythunia,
their mutual hatred came to a climax. Gath formed an army--a hodgepodge array
of Kothians, Corinthians, and Brythinians by promising protection to those
who allied with him against the sorceress Vammatar and her seven-foot warriors.
As the struggle between the armies reached a stalemate, the two sorcerers
negotiated. Vammatar revealed she possessed the Iron-Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath,
but Kulan Gath possessed the key, without which the books could not be opened.
They both desired the power that lay within the Books, and Vammatar proposed
a more solid alliance: "Marry me, Kulan Gath--and let your key turn in
They were wed in a hidden temple dedicated to gods they both acknowledged. The ancient priest who officiated never saw the Nether Demon they were silently conjuring up, even as he mouthed the words of the ceremony. They wanted no third human present as they unlocked the Iron-Bound Books. They learned that Shuma-Gorath had been imprisoned millennia before in the peak of Mount Crom , by the god Crom himself. They made the long trek to Cimmeria, where Vammatar betrayed Gath and his soldiers, ambushing them at the base of Mount Crom. As their forces struggled, a sudden torrential downpour swept over them. Gath and Vammatar voiced their defiance to Crom, and were rewarded with a lightning bolt split portions of the mountain asunder and covered them in an avalanche of rock and snow.
Both sorcerers survived, although each believed the other had perished.
Without Books or Key, Kulan Gath returned south, to Stygia, where he found his former role usurped by Thoth-Amon. (see comments)
(Uncanny X-Men#191 (fb) - BTS) - Kulan Gath apprenticed under the arch-mage Thoth-Amon but was later driven out of Stygia for practicing sorcery forbidden even by worshippers of Set. (Kind of hard to imagine. Must’ve been some heavily blasphemous stuff! - Greg O.)-SEE COMMENTS
(UXM#190 (fb) - BTS) - Later, Kulan Gath and Selene
(the future Black Queen) clashed for the first time.
(Savage Sword of Conan#189 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, Kulan Gath trained Razal Gulath, another sorcerer.
(CtB#15 (fb) - BTS) - Xiombarg, Queen of Chaos sent dreams to power hungry Kulan Gath, instructing him to make his way to the Sighing Lake and the sunken city of Yagala. Once there he was led to believe that if he returned Terhali the Green Empress back to life she will serve him and help him to conquer both the Hyborian and Melnibonean worlds. Arkyn, Lord of Law, and Arioch, Duke of Chaos, both put emissaries into play in order to stop Kulan Gath and foil Xiombarg’s plan.
(Conan The Barbarian#14) - After rescuing Zephra, a former enemy and love interest, from the Hooded Ones, Conan rode with the young woman to her father’s home. There Zukala, formerly a wizard and enemy of Conan’s, now a priest of Lord Arkyn of Law, conjured an image of Kulan Gath’s face in the waters of a fountain. Zukala told Conan of Kulan Gath: that he was a rival for Thoth-Amon’s power, about his plan to resurrect Terhali the Green Empress of Melnibone’, and then finally using her power to conquer both their world and Terhali’s.
(CtB#15) - Pursued by demons, monsters, and Prince Gaynor the Damned, Conan, Elric, and Zephra made it to the Sighing Lake. Once across the lake, they entered the golden spires of Yagala and interrupted Kulan Gath’s ritual. The arrival of Prince Gaynor and the Chaos Pack occupied the heroes long enough for Gath to complete his ritual and summon Terhali back to the world of the living. Yagala began to glow and the Sighing Lake disappeared. Kulan Gath commanded the newly arisen Green Empress to obey him, getting a hole blown through him by Terhali for his impudence, in turn. Elric and Conan were both blasted senseless by the undead sorceress, while Zephra sacrificed her own life to become a vessel for Lord Arkyn’s power, to destroy Terhali.
(Conan the Barbarian I#259 (fb) - BTS) - Kulan Gath was transported to the realm of the N'Garai: "Of late, I have dwelt in realms which would make that snake-infested kingdom [Stygia] seem a paradise by comparison." Kulan Gath's spirit survived for a short period in his free-floating atoms. He managed to survive by taking possession of the body of an unnamed victim. This body remained in its original form, resulting in a dramatic change in his appearance.
(Avengers III#29 (fb) ) - Having mystically elongated his life as far as possible, and fearful of death, Kulan Gath infuses his life-force, memories and power into a necklace that will survive him after death.
BTS-Kulan Gath came under the employment of King Strabonnus. Under his direction, Kulan Gath traveled to Zahmann, the kingdom of Godrick and Yaila, where he enslaved those two and took the kingdom over.
(Conan the Barbarian#253) - Conan and Hobb traveled to Zahmann, where they encountered Gath. Conan recognized the wizard's name but not his form, while Gath had only the dimmest recollection of encountering Conan ten years earlier. When Gath learned that Conan had survived a recent encounter with Vammatar, he attempted to enlist the barbarian against her. When Conan refused, he was thrown into a dungeon. Conan, of course, escaped and came after Kulan Gath, who fled. He abandoned his obligation to Strabonnus in favor of pursuing Vammatar.
(CtB#256) - While Conan suffered from the "Purple
Plague," Gath appeared before him in a vision, promising to save his life
if he accepted a vow to slay Vammatar. Conan's answer came in the form of
a large gob of spit, directly through the wizard's image.
Conan got better after eating raw meat.
(CtB#257-260) - Within the City of Numalia, in Nemedia,
Kulan Gath took the form of a blind prophetess, who distorted Conan's
perceptions, causing him to attack the city's rulers. However, Gath later
revealed himself and saved Conan from execution. Rather than fail again at
extracting a vow from the Cimmerian, Gath this time persuaded Conan to allow
him to transport him to his homeland, which had come under siege from
As they approached Mount Crom, Gath's Bone Dragon was shattered by one of Vammatar's Nightgaunts. Kulan Gath, along with Conan's then-ally, Hobb, were separated from Conan in the fall, although all survived.
Gath and Hobb met up with Vammatar and her Hyperborean warriors, but she agreed to reunite with Gath to locate the Iron-Bound Books. However, while they talked, Hobb fell through a crevice, found the Books, and was manipulated by Shuma-Gorath itself to read from them.
The immense demon burst forth from Mount Crom. Gath and Vammatar combined their powers to immobilize Shuma-Gorath and then to drive off Conan and his new allies, who attempted to ambush them. However, Shuma-Gorath broke free from their control (or perhaps it was never was). Shuma-Gorath easily overpowered and obliterated the two former lovers.
(Conan: The Flame and the Fiend#1 - BTS, 2, 3) - Armati,
another of Kulan Gath's wives, captured Conan and brought him to prince Shah
Amurath, lord of Akif, who was allied with prince Yezdigerd of Turan. In
Akif, she used the collected bones of Gath and his former steed, as well
as a Turanian soldier/sacrifice to resurrect her "once and future husband."
However, as she had been unable to find every single bone, he was not at
his full power.
Nonetheless, Gath slaughtered a legion of Conan's Kozak army for the Shah and Yezdigerd's men, terrifying them with his power. Gath threatened to turn against the Shah when he attempted to stop the wizard from taking his revenge on Conan. Conan revealed Gath's "renewed affair" with Vammatar to Armati, causing her to doubt and suspect him. The rest of the Kozak army stormed the city, saving Gath from the need for explanations.
Gath summoned the fire demon Ormuz to assist him, while Conan's allies, Fafnir, Ispirana, and Zula, stole into the city and freed Conan. Ispirana sought to slay Gath to stop the fire demon; Armati told her she'd need to go through her to get to Kulan Gath; Ispirana did. Enraged, Gath wound vines around Ispirana, preparing to strangle the life out of her. Just then Wraal, the Devourer of Souls, who had been reborn through Ispirana (See Devourer of Souls), burst through the walls of the city. The Devourer felt loyalty towards Ispirana, and fought to save her, and to kill Gath. Ormuz engaged the Devourer, saving Gath from having his soul devoured. Instead, Conan managed to skewer Gath, and then beheaded him in an effort to prevent further resurrections.
(Marvel Team-Up I#79 (fb) - BTS) - Another Hyborian
era warrior, Red Sonja, killed Kulan Gath, as well, by cutting out his heart.
Also, Red Sonja’s essence was, at some point, contained within her sword; whether this was at the same time as her slaying Kulan Gath, at a later date, or if her later reincarnation was simply a one time intervention by the Elder Gods of the Hyborian Era is unknown.
(Marvel Team-Up I#79) - Gath's necklace and Red Sonja’s sword were recovered from an archaeological dig in Europe. On the night of the Winter Solstice, he entranced a security guard to wear the necklace. He then subsequently took possession of the guard's body in order to release the N'Garai from their exile in another dimension via one of the two remaining Sa’arpools on Earth. He was confronted by Spider-Man and Red Sonja, whose spirit has taken possession of Mary Jane Watson through her sword. Gath was defeated, after also being humbled by how much the world had changed in the centuries between the Hyborian Era and the Twentieth Century. Spider-Man returned the guard to normal and dumped the necklace in Hudson Bay near Staten Island after resisting the temptation to don it himself.
(X Men I#188-191) - The necklace was found in the body of a fish by a workman named Jaime Rodriguez, whose mind was strong enough to avoid Gath's manipulation. When Rodriguez was killed by a mugger, Gath possessed the mugger and transformed Manhattan into a Hyborian Age counterpart. He enslaved the X-Men, Avengers, New Mutants, and the Morlocks, sending them to hunt down and bring him Spider-Man (the only one whom he allowed to retain his original memory). The heroes, however, began gaining fragments of their memories back and turned against Gath as he and the Black Queen rehashed their old feud. Resisting Gath, Doctor Strange used the mutant Magik to reverse time to before Gath's spells started and altered the outcome. Jaime Rodriguez survived the attempt on his life but through the intervention of the time-traveling Nimrod. Gath's necklace became lost in the sewer, in the process.
(Avengers III#29 (fb) ) - Gath's necklace was again found in a fishnet, and again he gained a new body from a witless victim who touched it. Gath traveled the world looking a place to begin his plans anew. He ended up in Costa Verde in Central America and transformed the ruins of the native Kamekeri Indians to their former grandeur. However, he found that even his power could not keep out the modern world, as traces of it kept creeping into his would-be paradise. Gath accepted the fact that his time on Earth had ended and decided that he must become a god and pass on to the realms of the Gods; Gath explained, "And if the world will not survive the cataclysm that results when I shatter reality to find my proper place--well, no matter. It's a foul world--and it's better off dead."
(Avengers III#27 - BTS, 28-30) - Gath controlled the Kamekeri and empowered agents to capture the goddess Peliali, to be sacrificed for the necessary power for his plans. He was confronted by the Avengers, and, with the aid of her daughter Silverclaw, Peliali rallied against Gath and prevented her sacrifice (but not her death). Without the sacrifice of Peliali, the N'Garai feasted instead on Kulan Gath.
COMMENTS: Famous fantasy/sci-fi author Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn plotted the story where Kulan Gath first appears, with Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith listed as writer and artist respectively. Until such time as a more definite answer can be given it appears that a hodgepodge of people created Kulan Gath. His more commonly seen form was designed by John Byrne.
--Call me a child, but I hear the name Moorcock, and I'm torn b/t a Beavis and Butthead or a Porno joke.--Snood
I place the Hyborian era as beginning shortly after the great Cataclysm (18, 000 BC), although it came to exist as it was usually seen around 12, 000 BC-10, 000 BC. Conan's (and Kulan Gath's) adventures take place @ 10, 000 BC. For a truly excellent pre-modern era Chronology of the Marvel Universe, check out Robert Wicks' Unofficial Chronology of the Marvel Universe.
Kulan Gath was initially described as a contemporary
of Thoth-Amon. A modern-era historian, in the pages of the Uncanny X-Men,
described him as the former pupil of Thoth-Amon. Gath himself claimed that
he had initially been the high mage in Stygia, until Thoth-Amon usurped his
role while he was off trying to summon Shuma-Gorath. Gath referred to Amon
as "that mage come-lately."
Pay your money, take your choice.
At the same time, I'm not sure if Kulan Gath was involved with the Black Ring, or if it was another band of sorcerers.
Ten years had passed between Conan and Kulan Gath's encounters in CtB#15 and 253 (20 years of real time, 1972 and 1992). Kulan Gath commented to Conan, "Of late, I have dwelt in realms which would make that snake-infested kingdom [Stygia] seem a paradise by comparison." It is unclear how much time he spent before being resurrected, as well as where he spent that time. Perhaps the Realm of the N'Garai...or Cleveland.
The chronology of Kulan Gath's encounter with
Selene is difficult to place.
Also, it's not clearly stated that Armati was Gath's wife before or after Vammatar, but given the circumstances, it is inferred that Vammatar was his wife prior to Armati.
Vammatar was not impressed with Kulan Gath's second
Vamm: Hmmm. You've not aged well this past century, have you?
Gath: A green-skinned sorceress blasted my former body to shreds. When my free-floating atoms grabbed hold of this one, I was in no position to be choosy.
Vamm: Apparently not.
Kulan Gath attempts to open a portal to the
N’Garai’s realm in MTU#79 via one of the mystic Sa’arpools.
Anyway, since the entire issue takes place inside a museum designed to look like an ancient Egyptian temple (which Gath naturally mistook for a Stygian temple) I’ve never really understood how it could have actually been one of the Sa’arpools. Perhaps they dug up the entire pool out of the ground, shipped it to America in pieces, and reassembled it inside the museum. Or maybe it’s only the ring of stones around the edge of the pool that is important. Or maybe it worked because Kulan Gath believed it was a Sa’arpool. In any case the Sa’arpool inside the museum seemed to work just fine until Spidey brought down part of the ceiling onto it. Gath flipped out, saying that of the three Sa’arpools on earth, Spider-Man had sealed the second one perhaps forever. The first Sa’arpool was destroyed in Giant Sized Dracula#2 after the Elder God Y’Garon unsuccessfully attempted to return his brothers, Y’Bsgloth and Y’Griarth, to earth. One more to go!
The year 1978 in Kulan Gath’s MTU#79 appearance is topical.
Technically, Dr. Strange's spell in X-Men#191 leaves the possibility of an alternate quantum reality where everything that happened is still continuing in a time-line parallel to mainstream. Curiously, the one Avenger who might have been a worthy rival for Gath, Thor, is not present in the story. Furthermore, because of Strange's spell, Gath should have no memories of the X-Men#189-191 incidents; yet, once restored to a body around Avengers#28, he travels the world for a place to convert. Presumably, he had precognitive awareness of those events (hard to argue with magic--Snood). Kulan Gath being taken prisoner by the N'Garai means the body of whoever he was possessing, some poor fisherman or dockworker, went as well.
Conan the Barbarian#s 14 and 15 are filled with references to and a variety of characters from the Elric Saga and other fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock. Except for an Epic Graphic Novel (remember Epic?) this is Elric’s only appearance in a Marvel mag.
Next to Thor Annual 10, Marvel Team-Up#79 is one of my
favorite Marvel stories, and Mary Jane Watson using the sword to become Red
Sonja is basically a early homage to She-Ra. -Will
Agreed! Marvel Team-Up#79 kicks much ass! Great story and gorgeous art. One of my favorite things Byrne and Claremont ever worked on and one of my favorite Marvel comics period. Also with one more Sa’arpool left on earth and given Gath’s penchant for making a comeback I’d say there are still a few more stories to be gotten out of this. Maybe a Kulan Gath/Y’Garon team up or something like that? -Greg O.
Other Hyborian characters have interacted with present-day heroes besides Gath and Red Sonja. You can find out who they are here.
Supplemental info by Per Degaton:
PROFILE BY: William Uchtman, Greg O’Driscoll, and Snood.
Updated/Edited by Kyle Sims
Kulan Gath has no known connection to:
Arioch, the Duke of Chaos, @ Conan the Barbarian I#15, may or may not be or have connections to:
The Hawk-God and Hawk-Riders of Harakht have no known connection to:
Kulan Gath's "Elder Gods" may or may not fit somewhere in
Elric should not be confused with:
The Bone Dragon
It was a flying skeleton animated by the magic of Kulan Gath. It had definite limitations: it was slowed by three passengers (especially if one of them was portly), and it wasn't much in combat against powerful creatures, like Vammatar's Nightgaunts.
--Conan the Barbarian I#253 (257, 258, Conan: Flame and the Fiend#2, 3
images: (without ads)
Marvel Team-Up I#79, p11, pan1 (Kulan Gath body shot)
Marvel Team-Up I#79, p11, pan4 (Kulan Gath head shot)
Uncanny X-Men#188, p22, pan6 (Kulan Gath's necklace)
??, p?, pan? (Kulan Gath smiling)
??, p?, pan? (Kulan Gath giving orders)
??, p?, pan? (Kulan Gath suffering)
Conan the Barbarian#15, p?, pan? (Kulan Gath killed)
??, p?, pan? (Kulan Gath with Vammatar)
Uncanny X-Men#190, Cover (Kulan Gath VS Professor X)
Avengers III#30, p20, pan6 (Kulan Gath dies again)
Conan the Barbarian#252, Cover (Bone Dragon)
Conan the Barbarian I#14 (March, 1972) - Roy Thomas (writer), Barry Windsor-Smith (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#15 (May, 1972) - Michael Moorcock, James Cawthorn & Roy Thomas (writers), Barry Windsor-Smith (artist), Sal Buscema (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Marvel Team-Up I#79 (March, 1979) - John Byrne & Chris Claremont (writers), John Byrne (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), Al Milgrom (editor)
Uncanny X-Men#188 (December, 1984) - Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Ann Nocenti (editor)
Uncanny X-Men#189-191 (January-March, 1985) - Chris Claremont (writer), John Romita Jr. (pencils), Steve Leialoha (#189) & Dan Green (#190-191) (inks), Ann Nocenti (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#189 (September, 1991) - Michael Higgins (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Ricardo Villagran (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian#253 (February, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Dell Barras (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian#256-260 (May-September, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Dell Barras (#256), Alfredo Alcala (#257) & Ricardo Villagran (#258-260) (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan: The Flame and the Fiend#1-3 (September-November, 1993) - Roy Thomas (writer), Geof Isherwood (pencils), Sandu Florea (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Avengers III#28-30 (May-July, 2000) - Kurt Busiek (writer), George Perez (pencils), Al Vey, Dick Giordano (#29) & Scott Hanna (#30) (inks), Tom Brevoort (editor)
First Posted: 05/07/2002
Last updated: 04/07/2011
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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