VARNAE

Real Name: Varnae

Identity/Class: Human, undead magic user; citizen of pre-Cataclysm Atlantis; first vampire

Occupation: Lord of Earth's vampires

Group Membership: Ruler of all earth's vampires; leader of the Bad Seed, pre-cataclysmic Darkholder

Affiliations: Afterlings, Bloodstorm (pawn), Kaluu, Lianda, Lamia, Marie LaVeau, Nimrod the First, Taj Nital, Steppin' Razor, Aaron Thorne;
    former worshipper of
Chthon;
    possible contemporary of
Thulsa-Doom

Enemies: Aamshed, Amalric of Nemedia, Bible John, Blade, John Blaze, Brother Voodoo, Trinity Cabranes, Conan,  Dr. Strange, Domini, Dracula, Frank Drake, Janus (son of Dracula), Hannibal King, Kull, Giacomo Montesi, Marcello Montesi, Paolo Montesi, Red Sonja, Salome, Victor Strange, Thor, Verdelet, Zula

Known Relatives: None, although he is the figurative "father" of all vampires

Aliases: Arch-Magnus Necromantic, Baal, Bambu,Croatoan, Lord of the Vampires, Night Terror, Nosferatu Prime, Tsathoggua

Place of Birth: Atlantis

Base of Operations: Mobile;
    formerly pre-cataclysm Atlantis,
    Eurasia, Palestine, North America, Plateau of Leng, Kamar-Taj, Europe, New Orleans, New York, Rhode Island, Los Angeles

Education: Extensive magic studies

First Appearance: Bizarre Adventures#33 (December, 1982)

Powers: Varnae is the Lord of the Vampires of earth and a pre-cataclysm Darkholder. As such he has three sets of powers: Those associated with vampires, those pertaining to his status as Lord of the Vampires, and those gained through Black Magic.

Like all vampires, Varnae is immune to the effects of aging and the ravages of disease. He is able to turn others into vampires by biting them and draining their blood so they die (the way vampirism is spread, according to OHTMU Deluxe Edition#20). He is also able to turn into mist, a wolf, a bat, and a human-size bat. Like all vampires he can only be killed by being exposed to sunlight, being staked in the heart, or beheaded. Previously, the Montesi Formula, an incantation from the Darkhold, could kill all vampires, and did, but with its recent relaxing, it is unknown if it could be utilized again.

Due to his status as the 1st vampire created by the Darkhold, Varnae is Lord of the Vampires. As such he is able to control all other vampires, excluding those with extraordinary will-power and "living vampires," such as Morbius. Also due to his status as the first vampire, Varnae only fears religious icons from his time as a human; Crosses and other religious icons whose faiths he predates cause him no harm and have no effect on him. He is able to lift 7 tons, increase his size to up to 25 feet and has shape-shifting abilities. He can also plant telepathic thoughts in the minds of others and is a skilled swordsman. Additionally, even when slain, he can be resurrected through a spell in the Darkhold or through his spirit possessing a vampire. Finally, Varnae is a magician of unknown potency. He was a member of the Darkholder order in pre-cataclysm Atlantis meaning that he has access to some of the power of Chthon. He also at one time "sought the title" of Sorcerer Supreme and claimed to be a "Prince of Sorcerers," both hints at his probable great magical power.

The vampire Night Terror, whom Varnae briefly possessed had the ability to drink someone's memories as he drank their blood. It is unknown if Varnae, in this new body, has this attribute as well.

Height: 10'
Weight
: 475 lbs.
Hair
: Green
Eyes
: Red

History:

(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Hardcover#7: MAGIC) - Lord Varnae, summoned by Agamotto, attended the Assemblage of Avatars in Atlantis around 19,000 BC to find a solution for the current conflicts between the Elder Gods. Only little was accomplished during the meeting and Agamotto became frustated with humanity's limitations.

(Dr. Strange III#11/2 //  Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - In ancient Atlantis, a group of sorcerers (including Varnae) former followers of Thulsa Doom, found the Chthon Scrolls.

(Dr. Strange III#11/2//  Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - One of them, Varnae, was dying (from wounds received in Kull's war with the wizards), and so he was the first to volunteer himself to unleash a great new evil force upon the world. As Varnae died, the other sorcerers muttered Chthon's hellish incantations over his body. Varnae died, but three days later the cultists unearthed his great stone sarcophagus or blood, and rose three days later as a vampire.

(Dr. Strange II#61 (fb) - BTS, Dr. Strange III#11/2, Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - A wizard attempted to command Varnae, so the vampire disabused him of the notion that Varnae had a will subservient to anyone's by eating him.

(Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - The slain by Varnae, and those in turn slain by those he had slain, became the soulless will-less vampires the cultists had intended Varnae to become, and thus the vampire plague was unleashed

(Dr. Strange III#11/2) - Varnae and the other vampires who followed slew the other wizards, thus adding to their undead number. The undead worshipped him as the lord of vampires for centuries and he reveled in their worship.

(Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - At the time of the Great Cataclysm that sunk Atlantis, Varnae placed himself in suspended animation in his sarcophagus amid a viscid human stew. During this time, he received visions of the world around him, including the emergence of the Cimmerians.

(Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb) - BTS) - Awakening during the Hyborian Era, Varnae used his mental powers to implant thoughts in the minds of the Afterlings, magically created humanoid bats that had served the adepts Morophla and Uathacht. He had them free him from his sarcophagus, and then used his powers to bind them to his will.

(Conan the Barbarian I#245 (fb)) - Using his powers, Varnae received a vision of a group of mercenaries traveling upon a road. One of these mercenaries discovered an indestructible parchment of the Darkhold. Varnae, aware that the Darkhold possessed spells to destroy vampires with, grew concerned.

Again using his ability to implant thoughts in the minds of others, Varnae generated images of a woman guarding treasure to lure the leader of the mercenaries, Amalric of Nemedia, to Varnae’s base in the Flaming Mountains of Khrosha.

(Conan the Barbarian I#244) - Conan, Red Sonja, and Zula, having escaped imprisonment, ventured into the Khrosha caves. The Afterlings abducted them, and brought them to Varnae.

(Conan the Barbarian I#245) - Varnae told Conan and his compatriots of who he was, delighted to discover that Chthon had no worshippers in the Hyborian era when they did not recognize his name. Only deities worshipped when Varnae had been a man, such as Chthon and Valka, could affect him or be invoked against him.

Varnae also showed them a captured scout of the mercenary army he had guided towards himself, whom Varnae ate. Enraged, Conan and his allies attacked the Afterlings, to no success. Varnae, rather than kill the rowdy trio immediately, had them placed in a deep pit, , intending to hold them until he captured the forces of Almaric (aka Malthom) at which point he would perform a massive blood sacrifice and transform the Afterlings into true vampires.

Conan, Red Sonja, and Zula escaped, however, and managed to reach the outside. However, having just emerged from the caves, they saw the Afterlings attacking Amalric. Conan saved Amalric from an Afterling, but another flew away with the scroll of the Darkhold. Red Sonja wounded and pursued the Afterling, only to be attacked by Varnae. The Afterling dropped the scroll and died.

Conan came to Sonja’s rescue, freeing Sonja from Varnae’s grasp, but Varnae soon grabbed him. Zula went for the Darkhold parchment as Varnae prepared to eat Conan. When Zula began reading the parchment, Varnae sent an Afterling to attack him, but Sonja defended Zula as he completed the spell. The spell, invoking deities such as Valka and Chthon, mystically injured Varnae, forcing him to flee. He hurled Conan away, but an Afterling gave its life to break Conan’s fall.

(Bizarre Adventures#33/4 (fb)) - Varnae, observing members of a primitive tribe (possibly Picts during the Hyborian era, see comments), saw them chase a bison or buffalo type animal off a cliff and onto pre-sharpened stakes that they had set up. Varnae attacked the tribe, and after drinking their blood, impaled them on those stakes.

(Tomb of Dracula IV#2 (fb)) <2000 BC> - Varnae coerced the Sumerian sorceress Aamshed into creating the Ritual of Ascendance, which would vastly amplify the power of a vampire. However, Aamshed managed to twist the spell so that it could only be performed every two thousand years and that it must be performed on a vampire's home soil. As Varnae's home soil had long ago sunken beneath the surface of the ocean, he was unable to perform the ritual. (see comments).

(Tomb of Dracula IV#2 (fb)) <0 AD> - Varnae attempted and failed to raise Atlantis to perform the Rite of Ascendence; his efforts were again foiled by Aamshed.

(Marvel Comics Presents#63/4) - Circa 1000 AD, the Viking settlements in Vinland (North America), were overrun with vampires led by Varnae. The last human prayed to Thor to come to their aid, before being taken by the undead. The thunder-god found the settlement decimated and half the population dead. The other half were vampires. Thor was then confronted by Varnae, who revealed his names and his aliases of Baal, Tsathoggua, and Croatoan. Thor and Varnae battled, locked in a stalemate. Thor finally opened a portal with Mjolner, letting sunlight through. Varnae fled the light, but his vampire minions were decimated.

Almost six centuries later the last Viking settler was revealed to have been responsible for ending the Roanoke Colony by turning its population into vampires.

(Dr.Strange III#12/2) - The pages of what would become the Darkhold came into the possession of the Catholic Church and a priest named Paolo Montesi. Demonstrating an ability to resist the temptations of the Chthonic parchments, he was granted the sole stewardship of them and given the ability to marry and produce heirs by Pope Eugene III circa 1150 AD. (See comments) Varnae was aware that the Church was now in possession of text revealing the existence of what would become the Montesi Formula, although they did not yet know it. He led an army of vampires into Rome and assaulted the Vatican, seeking to slay Paolo Montesi, preventing the Formula from ever being discovered. His forces clashed with the Papal Guard and Varnae was held at bay by Paolo wielding a cross. (See comments) Varnae, employing a ruse of some sort, caused the priest to stumble and drop the crucifix, and then killed him. However, Paolo's son was born that very night, then unknown to the vampire lord.

(Dr.Strange III#13/2) - Giacomo Montesi, Paolo's son, followed in his father's footsteps as the curator of the Darkhold. (Exposure to the Darkhold gave the Montesis extraordinary long lifespans.) He deduced that the missing page containing the formula to destroy all vampires was taken to the east, to Tibet. Emissaries were sent by the priest in 1246, 1253 and 1350, finally finding the hidden city of Kanar-Taj. However, before communication could be established, one of Varnae's human agents slew Giacomo. The priest's son, Marcello, re-established ties with the Tibetan city in the 15th century, and Varnae responded by going to Kamar-Taj and training a mystic named Kaluu. With Varnae's tutoring, Kaluu grew strong enough to conquer Kamar-Taj. However, Kaluu grew greedy and sought control of the surrounding villages. Kaluu was defeated by the "white" magic of the mystic who would one day become Stephen Strange's mentor, the Ancient One.

(Bizarre Adventures#33, Dracula Lives!#2/1, Dracula Lives#3/1 - BTS) - Varnae, weary of his thousands of years of vampiric existence, seeks to choose a successor. To that end, in 1459, in the 3rd year of the second reign of Vlad Tepes, he set his sights on the Impaler as his successor.

Varnae started sending Tepes bizarre dreams in which Tepes saw Varnae with his adulating undead hordes. One night, though, Varnae sent a dream that showed Tepes’ Ottoman enemies, Turac and Baron Korda, planning an attack. In the dream, Turac stated that the Turks would attack from the East. Taking the dream as an omen, Tepes massed his soldiers on the East.

However, Varnae deceived Tepes, as the Ottoman forces actually attacked from the west. The Ottoman soldiers took the badly wounded Tepes as a prisoner, wishing to use him as a figurehead for a puppet government. They took him to be healed.

Varnae flew off to implement the rest of his plan. Turac brought Tepes to Lianda, a Gypsy healer-- as well as a vampire under Varnae’s control. As Lianda bit Dracula, Varnae, at the battlefield where Tepes had been wounded, attacked priests sent to deliver last rites to the wounded.

Meanwhile, Turac returned to Lianda to inquire of Dracula’s condition. Lianda attacked Turac, but the Ottoman soldier wounded her with his spear. Turac left Lianda, presuming he destroyed her, and left with Tepes. Lianda, although seriously harmed, under Varnae’s control, transformed into a wolf and returned to the Vampire Lord. She informed Varnae that Tepes had joined the ranks of the undead, and asked him to heal her wounds. Varnae scoffed at her and allowed her to disintegrate in front of him.

As this happened, Turac brought Dracula back to his castle, where Dracula, unaware of what he had become, was taunted as Turac fondled Dracula’s wife, Maria, who had been raped by Turks. Scratching Turac’s face with her nails, Maria attempted to flee, but fell and broke her neck against hard stone. Enraged, Dracula broke the chains holding him. Realizing he had become a vampire, Dracula slew Baron Korda and Turac.

Simultaneously, Varnae set up one last test to assess Dracula’s worthiness to become the new Lord of Vampires. He chose a subordinate vampire named Nimrod, allowed him to drink some of his own blood, and sent him away. Nimrod was instructed to pretend to be the Lord of Vampires, and other vampires were sent to find Dracula.

Dracula, meanwhile, had turned into a bat, taking the corpse of his wife and his still living son away. He gave his son to the Gypsies, and buried his wife’s corpse. As he traveled, he flew over a church and a young couple named Cristina and Serge. The two had first met only a few weeks earlier, and Cristina’s uncle served as clergyman.

Cristina saw Dracula as a bat, and informed her uncle of what she saw. Cristina’s uncle went to to Castle Dracula to destroy the now vampirized Turac. Before his destruction, Turac informed Cristina’s uncle that Dracula now existed as a vampire. The clergy resolved to destroy Dracula.

Meanwhile, other vampires found and abducted Dracula. Brought before Nimrod, Dracula refused to acknowledge Nimrod as his master, and a duel of stakes was announced. At the duel, Dracula destroyed both Nimrod and a vampiress named Lala. However, Cristina’s uncle and other clergymen raided the vampiric gathering, taking out Dracula with arrows. After staking and burning the downed vampire, they decided to scatter Dracula’s ashes in a river.

Nearby, Serge seduced Cristina. They had sex, although Cristina only thought about Dracula during intercourse. (I bet if Serge knew that his ego would have been bruised. --Per Degaton.) Apparently, due to much "blood and pain", the newly deflowered Cristina went to clean herself in the river-- the same river where Dracula’s ashes had been scattered. Dracula reformed in front of Cristina, but told her, out of gratitude, he would spare her.

Meanwhile, Cristina’s uncle arrived at the church-- to be confronted by Varnae, who feasted on the clergy. Cristina and Serge arrived to see the victorious Varnae. Serge revealed himself to be one of Varnae’s minions, transforming into a monstrous form. He started to attack Cristina, but Dracula arrived and destroyed him. Cristina fled.

Dracula confronted Varnae, who revealed to Tepes how he manipulated the events leading up to Dracula’s becoming a vampire. Varnae, despite resistance on the part of Dracula, imparted his blood to Dracula. This went on through the night, until Varnae placed Dracula in a coffin to protect him from the dawn. Varnae himself walked out into the sun, gradually shrinking and disintegrating, until he reached a cliff where he totally evaporated.

(Dr. Strange III#13/2) - On the night he made Dracula his successor, Varnae had just slain Marcello Montesi, again demonstrating his immunity to religious paraphernalia. Varnae never told Dracula about the Montesi Formula, taking the secret with him to the, uh, grave, so to speak. The Montesi Formula would ultimately be used by Dr. Strange to destroy Dracula and all other vampires (save Hannibal King).

(Dr. Strange III#18) - Marie LaVeau, desperate for vampire blood, had kidnapped Dr. Strange's friend, Morgana Blessing, and his brother Victor, and was holding them in a mansion outside New Orleans. She had put up magical shields which prevented entry to the house, and demanded that Dr. Strange hand over the "Vampiric Verses," a spell from the Book of the Vishanti. The Book of the Vishanti is the "white magic" counterpart to the Darkhold; As such for every spell within the Book of Sins, there is an antithesis within the Book of the Vishanti. Since the Montesi Formula had originated in the Darkhold, the spell to create vampires was contained within the Book of the Vishanti. Strange was about to deliver the spell-page to LaVeau, when reason reasserted itself and he forever banished the page from the earth plane. LaVeau, possessing the Darkhold, invoked a spell contained within for resurrecting the Lord of the Vampires. When the incantation was completed, she prepared to sacrifice Morgana Blessing as the touchstone, but Brother Voodoo's servant, Bambu, jumped in the way and was himself slain. His corpse rose, transforming itself into the reborn Varnae. Varnae scoffed at LaVeau's offer of an alliance, and attempted to feast on Blessing, but was confronted by Dr. Strange. The Sorcerer Supreme and the Lord of the Vampires battled, Varnae changing shape and revealing he had formerly sought to be Sorcerer Supreme before he became a vampire. Strange cast an "incantation of oblivion" on Varnae, making the undead mage relive his oblivion of 5 centuries. Embracing (un)life again, Varnae fled, claiming with Strange he finally had a reason to live: A worthy foe.

(Excalibur I#30 - BTS) - When Meggan of Excalibur began exhibiting vampiric traits, Doctor Strange appeared to cure her, noting that she had absorbed energies released by Marie Laveau's use of the Darkhold. Strange noted that he suspected Varnae was in England.

(Spirits of Vengeance#19) - Varnae, wearing a human form, attacked a young couple in Cyprus Hills Cemetery, killing the boy and frightening away the girl. He then encountered John Blaze, still reeling from the aftermath of the "Siege of Darkness." Varnae attempted to make Blaze to drink a potion made from the vampire-lord's own blood, with the intent of turning the hero into a vampire. (At this point Varnae was still the only "true" vampire on earth.) Blaze fought Varnae across the cemetery, and attempted to use a cross against him. As Blaze is not a believer (and Varnae is immune to Christian iconography) it had no effect. They finally arrived at the the Midnight Sons' mausoleum, where Blaze pressed the first vampire's face into a Midnight Sons dagger icon. As Blaze believed in this, and it was from Varnae's time, it damaged the vampire lord, who fled, swearing vengeance.

BTS- Varnae somehow completely broke the Montesi formula, creating other vampires and transformed the vampire hunter Taj Nital into a vampire.

(Nightstalkers#16 - BTS) - Varnae had Janus, the son of Domini and Dracula, kidnapped by Taj Nital as part of his plan against Dracula. Using Janus, Varnae then controlled HYDRA's genetically engineered vampire, Bloodstorm, (created from the DNA of Dracula himself) and instructed it to escape from the lab he was built in.

(Nightstalkers#17 - BTS) - Varnae instructed Bloodstorm to come to him from the decimated HYDRA lab and to take with him the Exorcist, Frank Drake's anti-occult gun, which HYDRA had taken. Blade arrived at Kennedy airport, where he encountered the now vampiric Taj Nital, but the Nightstalker was not aware of this development.

(Nightstalkers#18)- Varnae had Taj Nital bring Blade to him in a house in Rhode Island. At the house, Varnae menaced Blade, threatening the vampire hunter and making oblique hints about Dracula's return. Bloodstorm arrived, followed by Salome, and Frank Drake and Hannibal King. Salome offered Varnae the opportunity to serve her and the Lord of the Vampires rejected her offer. She blasted Bloodstorm, freeing him from Varnae's control. Frank Drake used the Exorcist against Varnae, not really harming him much, while Varnae ordered Taj Nital to slay Blade. The two grappled, with Blade killing his former ally. Varnae then ordered Hannibal King to kill his fellow Nightstalkers, and the vampire King struggled in a battle of wills with Varnae, finally impaling himself to protect his friends, but missed his heart. Drake went ballistic, sending Blade out of the structure, obstenvively to power up the Exorcist, but Dracula's descendent then over-powered the Exorcist while rushing Varnae. The gun exploded, apparently killing Hannibal King, Frank Drake, and Varnae and destroying the house.

(Blade: Vampire Hunter I#1 - BTS) - Prior to his confrontation with the Nightstalkers, Varnae turned Aaron Thorne into a vampire and made him the leader of an organization called the Bad Seed, designed to spread vampirism. It created a drug called Aceldama, a highly addictive substance containing vampire blood, whose use would turn its user into a vampire slave. Blade confronted Thorne at the New York Bad Seed operations HQ and defeated him, destroying the facilities. Thorne escaped, however, and hinted at further Bad Seed operations around the country.

(Blade: Vampire Hunter I#2-3 - BTS) - The resurrected Dracula (see comments) confronted Blade at a New York night club. He quickly defeated the vampire slayer, but forgot about Blade's immunity to vampire bites. The hero received aid from Aaron Thorne, who battled Dracula on behalf of his master, Varnae. Dracula was winning when Blade made them both retreat by blasting them with running water (an obscure vampiric weakness). "Dracula" swore he would encounter Blade again soon.

(Blade: Vampire Hunter I#4 - BTS) - A group of vampires, led by the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, captured Blade and his ally Bible John in Los Angeles. They then prepared for Varnae's spirit to return to the earth plane and enter Blade's body.

(Blade: Vampire Hunter I#5) - Varnae's spirit, returned to earth by the magic of Marie LaVeau, sought to use Blade as its new body. In order for the possession to take effect, however, a certain sigil had to be painted on the vampire hunter. Blade was able to wipe away the painted sigil and escape from his restraints, in the process skewering the vampire Night Terror. Varnae, in desperate need of a body, possessed the vampire, making it his new body. Varnae engaged Blade in swordplay. Blade, who was weakening due to exposure to poison gas, was able to create a spark with the swords clashing, which ignited the gas causing the building the vampires and Blade were in to explode. Sunlight approaching in the ruins, the vampires, and Varnae, fled into underground.

Comments: Created by Steve Perry and Steve Bissette.

Varnae is still the Lord of the Vampires, despite any claims Dracula may currently make. When Varnae was resurrected in Dr. Strange III#18, the Darkhold spell was for resurrecting the Lord of the Vampires, and Varnae, not Dracula came back. Varnae is still out there and I'd love to see him return (in his original form, no problem for the Lord of the Vampires) to menace the MU or possibly battle Dracula himself.

The explosion in Nightstalkers#18 that killed Hannibal King and Frank Drake had an odd effect, according to the letters page of Blade I#10; the Dracula that arose from the explosion's wreckage in Blade: Vampire Hunter I#1 was actually a composite being consisting of Frank Drank (Dracula's descendent) and Hannibal King (a vampire). The two's significant aspects were melded together in the explosion to create the new Dracula, who possessed none of the original's memories. Blade: Vampire Hunter I#10 was the final issue of the series, and the first part of a story called "Dracula Untombed," The planned issues 11 and 12 would have revealed the above.
However, Hannibal King has been seen separately since, in Blade: Crescent City Blues, where he revealed Drake was also alive, and the original Dracula showed up in Spider-Man Team Up#6. The Dracula in Spider-Man Team Up#6 had memories of fighting Dr. Strange previously and was taken to be the real deal. This means that the merged King-Drake Dracula seems to have been forgotten about and the Dracula in the short lived Blade series is now being taken as the original.
My explanation for all this is that after Blade: Vampire Hunter I#10, the composite Dracula was broken apart somehow and resulted in 3 components: Hannibal King, the badly injured Frank Drake, and the original Dracula, returned to (un)life through the merging and splitting of both his bloodlines. Similar to Snood's explaining of the Marduk fiasco, this isn't canon, but it is the closest we are probably going to get to anything resembling continuity.

In the Marvel Universe, crosses, or for that matter any religious icon, only repel vampires if wielded by one who truly believes in the significance of the symbol. The vampire's belief in the symbol is irrelevant; only the wielder's. However, Varnae has demonstrated (Dr. Strange III#13/2 and Bizarre Adventures#33) not being repelled by the crucifix. The explanation given is that he pre-dated Christianity and the gods he worshipped are no longer believed in, so he has nothing to fear. Presumably, Varnae alone has this attribute as he was vampirically created directly from the Darkhold, and is thus more "pure."
There are, however, 2 times in which Varnae has been depicted fearing religious icons. One is in Dr. Strange III#12/2, in which Paolo Montesi held him at bay with a crucifix until the vampire lord tricked the priest into dropping the icon and killed him. I would say that since Paolo was the 1st Montesi to be custodian of the Darkhold, his faith was especially strong and this, coupled with the confrontation occurring at the gates of the Vatican, caused Varnae to fear the cross. Or perhaps Varnae was just playing games with the ill-fated priest.
In Spirits of Vengeance#19, Varnae battled John Blaze who tries unsuccessfully to hold the vampire at bay with a cross. When this failed, Blaze pressed a "Midnight Sons" dagger from a mausoleum into Varnae, causing the latter pain. The order of the Midnight Sons has been shown to have existed before Atlantis' fall, when they fought Zarathos (As seen in Midnight Sons Unlimited#4). Since the order existed in Varnae's time, he is susceptible to its iconography the way Dracula is to Christianity's.

Chuck J has a suggestions as to why Varnae may have been affected in the first of these two cases. "As we all know, the effectiveness of religious symbols against vampires depends on the faith of the wielder. Montesi, as a Catholic almost certainly believed in the Trinity, which means that he believed that Jesus is God, the creator of the universe and necessarily existed prior to anything else, including Varnae. It may be that the Christians Varnae encountered in times past were Arians (who believe that Jesus is a created being and not truly God. Note that Varnae's contempt was for the "damnable fisherman," not his Father.) Due to the "faith factor," a cross wielded by someone with these beliefs wouldn't hurt Varnae, even if Jesus really existed in the Hyborian era."

But Per Degaton disagrees, noting that "Actually, in Bizarre Adventures#33, Cristina's uncle, who was either a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox priest (as that story took place in Transylvania) attempted to use a cross against Varnae and it failed. Since BOTH the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church teach the Trinity, Cristina's uncle (and his fellow clergymen) would have believed in the Trinity. Not only that, but since they were in a church when Varnae attacked them, there were plenty of crosses around! Oh, and if you think that Cristina's uncle and his clergymen did not have sincere faith, earlier they had been shown as using crosses against Turac and other vampires successfully. Since the Roman Catholic Church had all Arians executed or exiled by the year 600 AD (so much for Christianity promoting tolerance), I doubt Varnae has ever encountered any Arian Christians in any of the adventures we have seen. I prefer Nick's explanation for why Varnae SEEMED to fear a cross at that one time. "Or perhaps Varnae was just playing games with the ill-fated priest." Maybe Varnae was hiding his immunity to the cross at that point in time, to save it as an ace in the hole, but since the Bizarre Adventures#33 story took place just after he had resolved to commit suicide, he felt had no need to conceal his immunity to crosses." The debate continues.
    --J. M. Lofficier states that it is the degree of faith that affects the vampire, and not the religious artifact or the religion itself. He also states the Marcello was just not as "powerful" in his faith as Paolo.
    The vampire is also likely more even more affected by deities of whom he knew and respected.

The story in Marvel Comics Presents#63/4 requires several explanations. First, Varnae mentions he was known as Baal in Babylonia. Baal was not worshipped in Babylon, but in Phonecia, modern day Israel/Palestine. The gods of both the Babylonians and Palestinians were considered pagan and evil by the Hebrews (readers of this entry would do well to disabuse themselves of the misconception that religious tolerance derives from Jewish tradition --Per Degaton), and Len Kaminski, the writer of the MCP story, probably confused the 2 groups. (A similar thing occurred in Citizen V and the V-Battalion: The Everlasting when Fabian Nicieza listed Aqhat as a Hebrew deity; Aqhat was worshipped by the Phoenicians, who lived in the same area as the Israelites, and whose myths are often grouped together in mythology books.)
Since the actual deities exist in the MU, Varnae's listing of both Baal and Tsathoggua probably means that he attempted to steal their worshippers away similar to the way the Heliopolitan (Egyptian) god Seth did with the worshippers of the Elder god Set.
The name Croatoan is not the name of a god, but the only clue to the disappearance of the Roanoke, Virgina colony in 1590. The colony was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1587, and consisted of 117 people. After a year, the settlement's leader, John White, left to get more supplies in England, but was unable to return until 1590, due to the Spanish war. When he returned to the colony he found it abandoned, although there was no sign of a struggle taking place. The word Croatoan was carved in one tree and the letters CRO on another tree. To this day the fate of the colonists is unknown, although people have speculated that they were killed by Indians, the Spanish, or joined a friendly Indian village nearby and became part of its population.
    The name was seen again (or still) on a tree in Roanoke after the town was slaughtered by Logan as a test by Weapon X, as seen in Weapon X II#25--Snood.

Dr. Strange III#12/2 listed the Pope who gave Paolo Montesi the charge of the Darkhold as Pope Eugene VIII. There has never been a Pope Eugene VIII. Eugene III was Pope from 1145-1153. This is around the time that the Darkhold parchments came into the Church's possession (Aelfric the Mad Monk possessed them and was burned at the stake in 1149.) so it is probably meant to be Eugene III that gave the Montesis charge of the Darkhold.

Also, Dr. Strange III#13/2 listed "as the 14th century was born" as when Marcello Montesi re-established contact with Kamar-Taj. However, the birth of the 14th century was the year 1300, when Giacomo Montesi was still alive and Kamar-Taj not yet found by his men. So the 14th century should be the 15th century, or the year 1400.

The mythology of vampirism in the Marvel Universe has been fairly consistent with mainstream folklore and itself over the years. Discrepancies have arisen here and there, but for the definitive examination of the subject consult The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition#20. One example of an inconsistency is that, while in many myths about them, vampires fear running water, they don't in the MU; However Blade: Vampire Hunter I#3 showed "Dracula" and Aaron Throne being damaged by running water.
Lilith observes that Dracula was nearly killed by running water in Tomb of Dracula I#9, so there is a precedent in the Marvel Universe. --Prime Ed-ternal

Marvel: The Year in Review '92 had a personal ad in its "classified section" in which Elsa, (212) 555-2738, put out a message to an apparent vampire she encountered. She describes their meeting as "YOU: Pale long-haired rocker in costume w/fangs. ME: Blond punker w/ "VARNAE ROCKS" T-shirt and leather jacket."

Per Degaton's Comments:

Bizarre Adventures#33, though it contained Varnae’s first appearance, did not go into Varnae’s own origin. In fact, much of the story implied that Varnae had existed for much longer than later stories have pegged his becoming a vampire at. For example, in the first four pages of the story in Bizarre Adventures#33, Varnae’s encounter with the primitive tribe discussed above took place. The writer probably intended this primitive tribe to be cavemen, but we know that Varnae was not born until well after the time of the cavemen. I have concluded that the primitive tribe we saw may have been Picts during the Hyborian era, as various primitive tribes existed throughout the Hyborian era, as well as many animals we generally associate with such times (such as mammoths). I have placed this encounter after Varnae’s run-in with Conan, as Varnae mentioned that he existed in suspended animation during the Hyborian era until the Afterlings freed him.
Varnae also made statements in Bizarre Adventures#33 that would imply he existed for millions of years, but again we know now that does not accurately reflect Varnae’s age. Varnae crushed a cross brandished by a priest and stated: "The Gods I feared died eons ago". An eon means a period of one million years, so we know Varnae dissembles here (poetic license? --Prime Ed-ternal). Varnae also informed Dracula that: "I saw this stinking race climb from the mud", implying that Varnae existed before humanity did, but we know now that since Varnae himself once existed as a human being, this cannot represent the truth.
However, one bit of dialogue that Varnae mouths was confirmed by his encounter with Conan-- he stated he witnessed "the rise and fall of ancient Acheron, Valusia, Mei’ting, Atlantis...". We know that since Varnae opposed King Kull and was born in Atlantis, he tells the truth here, and he probably had visions of Acheron while in suspended animation.

As discussed by
Greg O:
What many students of Marvel chronology/history forget when constructing timelines for characters and events around the Pre Cataclysmic and the Hyborian Eras is that between each of these epochs and the beginning of modern history there was a cataclysm which destroyed the current civilization. Most people are aware of the one that destroyed the surface world Atlantis, but often forget the second cataclysm which ended the Hyborian Era. After each of these destructive events the geography of earth was considerably altered and man sunk into a state of savagery and barbarism before once again beginning the laborious climb back up into civilization once more.

Apparently the first was far worse and man had longer to recover because between the sinking of Atlantis and the beginning of the Hyborian Era man not only was reduced to barbarism but even devolved back into a semi-apelike state. The second was not nearly so bad, simply reducing man to savagery and breaking the Hyborian continent apart into the landmasses which would eventually drift into the positions we recognize on the map today. Thus the "cave-men" Varnae saw were likely the primitive men that existed between the Fall of Atlantis and the rise of the Sons of Bor. It is possible, but highly unlikely they were the savage humans between the Fall of Hyboria and the beginning of modern history - - the Hyborian Era and the history of the modern world are not strictly continuous as primitive man (as the historians reckon it) would have had access to all sorts of Hyborian Era advances like the hand pump, the forging of steel, oil lamps, hinges, advanced ship building and so forth. That and it appears in the interim between the Hyborian Era and the beginning of modern history man only had time to revert to savagery not devolve and then climb his way back up the evolutionary ladder.
Also Varnae mentioned, in his Marvel Comics Presents appearance opposite Thor, that he watched Thor's race gnaw its way up upon the bones of the old gods' civilization. This strikes me as particularly a reference to  Ymir whom in Norse myth Odin and his brothers formed the world from after slaying him. Though a "frost giant" now Ymir was the god of the Vanir and the Aesir races of the Hyborian Era. At this time I am still puzzling out the exact connection of the Hyborian Vanir and Aesir to the godly Asgardians - - perhaps a portion of these people were taken by the Asgardians back to their own dimension to serve as the super strong "mortals" of their realm.
Back to Varnae though - - this reference to the Asgardians feasting on the bones of the old gods could be a reference to various Hyborian Era gods, or at least the ones that didn't survive to gain worshipers in  the modern era.
I'll buy most of that. I don't know about "devolving back into a semi-apelike state," though. Other explanations for the observation of cavemen, dinosaurs, etc. in any era include the Savage Land, and races created by the Deviants--
Snood.

Incidentally, Varnae made a mistake in one of his recollections. Taunting a defeated clergyman, he stated: "I saw your damnable fisherman rise up to claim the meek and ignorant...laughed when he was nailed up, and spit on his resurrection". While we know that Varnae existed when Jesus Christ did, Jesus was usually depicted as a carpenter, not a fisherman! (Varnae may have had Peter in mind. Peter is usually shown as having been a fisherman before he became an apostle, and since he-allegedly-served as the first Pope/bishop of Rome, popes are quaintly said to wear "the Fisherman’s Ring" as the successors to Peter. Actually, Steve Bissette, who incorporated many photos into his artwork, apparently used a still from the film "The Fisherman’s Shoes" starring Anthony Quinn as the pope, so now we know how the mistake came about!)
Greg O's got more to say about this, too:
Varnae refers to ol' Jesus as a fisherman and people seem confused since Christ was most commonly known as a carpenter. However, let's not forget that this term could be meant euphemistically and not as a reference to Christ as a carpenter, but as the guy who "will make ye fishers of men". That and as the Christian faith began to spread out from the Middle East it was subject to all the mistranslations and misconceptions that any new religion endures (like being cannibals for eating Christ's flesh and drinking his blood - - almost vampiric in a way). Hence, that little fish symbol thing that is such a popular adornment for people's automobiles these days. Christians used to have to meet in secret and this was a symbol which marked their gathering places - - on the one hand it was an obvious reference to the above "fishers of men" quote, but ALSO in many of the places where these fish symbols were first used Christos was often mistranslated into Greek as Igthos which means "fish" and creates further connections between Jesus and the image of him as a fisherman. Varnae likely meant it in some or all of these connections as well the others mentioned elsewhere. 

The idea that the Darkholders created the first vampires was established in Doctor Strange I#61, a story which did not mention Varnae by name. However, subsequent retellings of the origin of vampires such as Doctor Strange III#11/2 and Varnae’s retelling of his origin to Conan in Conan the Barbarian I#244, confirm that Varnae served as one of the Darkholders of Atlantis who served Chthon. Chthon, by the way, in contrast with Set, is not a deity derived from either authentic mythology or Robert E. Howard’s Kull or Conan stories. Chthon, instead, has to do with Marvel’s aforementioned Darkhold, a book of black magic that was introduced in the Werewolf by Night stories in Marvel Spotlight I#3-4 (April to June 1972).

That a spell existed within the Darkhold to destroy all vampires was revealed in Werewolf By Night#15 (March 1974), identified by name in Dracula Lives#6 (May, 1974), where it is first spoken and used. It is reaffirmed in X-Men Annual#6 (1983)-- and Doctor Strange used it in Doctor Strange II#62 (December 1983). For speculation about the Montesi Formula and vampires see Montesi.

In Doctor Strange III#18, Varnae claims to have used the Vampiric Verses before anyone else before the Great Cataclysm. The Vampiric Verses are in the Book of the Vishanti, they can be used to reverse the Montesi Formula. (Note: The Book of the Vishanti serves as a counteragent against the Darkhold, reversing most any spell from the Darkhold. Unfortunately, that means that while the Montesi Formula in the Darkhold can destroy vampires, the Vampiric Verses can resurrect them.) Varnae states that he spoke the Vampiric Verses (and thus, one might guess, had access to the Book of the Vishanti) before the Great Cataclysm.
--John McDonagh

Valka, whose name Varnae quaked at, in contrast with Chthon, does represent a deity from Howard’s stories. Valka apparently existed as an actual entity in the Earth-616 universe, as he, along with Agamotto, played a part in the defeat of the Dweller in Darkness by Zhered-Na in Dr. Strange III#33/2. Other gods Varnae would have vulnerabilities to would include Set (who was worshipped by Thulsa Doom and the Serpent Men as well as by the Deviants), Honan and Hotath...and Holgar and Helfara, the Black Shadow, the Great Scorpion--Snood

In Conan the Barbarian I#260, they seem to have extended Crom's history back to the pre-cataclysmic era.
Was he worshipped in the days before Kull? If so, then Varnae should have vulnerabilities to Cromism. (Now, Conan had no Crom symbols on him in the 1991 published Varnae story, and taking a god's name in vain has never worked against vampires to my knowledge, so Varnae not wincing at a "By Crom!" would not serve as a problem.)--John

In Conan the Barbarian I#245, Varnae did seem to be unaffected when Conan invoked the name of Crom--in fact, Varnae seemed not to even recognize the name. In the same issue, however, at the mere mention of the word Valka, Varnae screams in pain. The apparent rationale being that Varnae was only harmed by the belief of Gods who existed prior to him.
However, Crom did indeed exist and even have followers prior to the Cataclysm:
http://marvunapp.com/Appendix/crom.htm
We know Varnae was created before the Cataclysm, apparently shortly after Kull slew Thulsa Doom. Kull's time was @ 500 years before the Cataclysm. So, either Crom developed worshippers AFTER Varnae became a vampire, or, more likely, since Crom's past was extended into the PreC era in Conan#260, Roy the Boy didn't have it effect Varnae, since it hadn't been ret-conned yet.
Still, the defense would be that when Zula invoked Valka, he was actually reading the Darkhold Scrolls, some primitive form of the Montesi Formula, which turned a mere name into an actual invocation for power, and thus a weapon.
Or maybe Varnae had sprayed himself with a can of Crom-B-Gone--Snood.

An informative article about religion in the days of King Kull.

Bizarre Adventures#33, with its elaboration of Dracula’s origin, drew on characters and situations from the stories in Dracula Lives!#2-3 (September to October 1973). The first stories in those issues, by Marv Wolfman and John Buscema, introduced Lianda, Turac, and Nimrod. Essentially, Varnae’s manipulation of the events in that story interweaves as a retcon.

Also, although the OHOTMUDE’s entry for Dracula stated that Solomon Kane, in his second encounter with Dracula in the 1500’s (Savage Sword of Conan#26, January 1978) became the first individual known to have "killed" Dracula since the latter became a vampire, technically this is not true, as Bizarre Adventures#33 shows that Cristina’s uncle and his clergymen managed to "kill" Dracula in 1459, as described above, they have the credit of being the first to "kill" Dracula since his emergence as a vampire.
--Solomon Kane's first encounter with Dracula is detailed in Dracula Lives#3--Snood.

Besides Varnae, other vampires shown as having existed during the Hyborian era include Akivasha (from Hour of the Dragon), the King of the Drelliks from Conan the Barbarian I#102-103 (Sept-Oct 1979), other vampires appearing in Red Sonja I#15 (1979), and in Savage Sword of Conan#32 (1978), #38(1979) and #141 (1987).

Snood observes: Just because he became a vampire @ 18500 BC doesn't mean he couldn't have been a millennia old sorcerer prior to that. Maybe he's one of the Elder Race, like Thulsa Doom, etc. Perhaps Varnae was the first vampire on Earth in the sense that we know it. Other Darkholders could have formed other sects of vampires, etc. Check out the comments under Lilith, Mother of Demons for discussion on other types of vampires.

Dagda79 makes an interesting observation: "Something odd.......in the 1602 series, Neil Gaiman uses Virginia Dare, the girl born in Roanoke....which we know from MCP#63 was decimated by a vampire turned by Varnae! "

Varnae only came out at night during his Conan appearances. That the scenes seem to take place in the day results from them taking place in the Flaming Hills of Khrosha, with constant volcanic activity.
--Per Degaton

Varnae has an entries in OHotMu Deluxe Edition#20 and OHotMU 2006 A-Z#12.

by The Squid with Per Degaton

Clarifications: Varnae, Lord of the Vampires should not be confused with:

  • Varney the Vampire, star of "penny-dreadfuls," @ Dr. Strange III#15/2
  • Verdelet, another ancient vampire, who took his form, @ Midnight Sons Unlimited 6.

Varnae used the alias Tsathoggua, probably to gain the real Tsathoggua's follower, and should not be confused with:

  • Tsathoggua, the toad god, @ Savage Sword of Conan#40

Varnae also used the alias of Baal, again to usurp the worshipers of the real deal, and should not be confused with:

  • Baal, Wolverine enemy and pseudo-vampire, @ Wolverine II#12
  • Baal, the actual Biblical demon (profile forthcoming by The Squid), @ Blaze II#3
    --The above two may well be the same character--Snood.
    Baal, Mr. Gabriel, Mysterio henchman, @ Daredevil II#4
  • Baal of Earth-Baal, the computer from thousands of years in the future, @ Iron Man I#41
  • Baal of the Crimson Sands, @ 3000 BCD, who rescued and raised En Sabah Nur, who became Apocalypse, @ Rise of Apocalypse#1

Appearances:
Bizarre Adventures#33 (December, 1982) - Steve Perry (writer), Steve Bissette (artist), Denny O'Neil (editor)
Dr. Strange III#11 (December, 1989) - Roy Thomas & Jean-Marc Lofficier (writers), David & Dan Day (pencils), Tom Vincent (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Dr. Strange III#12-13 (December, 1989 - January, 1990) - Roy Thomas & Jean-Marc Lofficier (writers), David & Dan Day (artists), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Dr. Strange III#18 (June, 1990) - Roy & Dann Thomas (writers), Jackson Guice (pencils), Tony Dezuniga (inks), Ralph Macchio (editor)
Excalibur I#30 (October, 1990) - Dana Moreshead (writer), Dave Ross (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Terry Kavanagh (editor)
Marvel Comics Presents#63 (November, 1990) - Len Kaminski (writer), Don Heck (pencils), Chris Ivy (inks), Terry Kavanagh (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#244-245 (May-June, 1991) - Roy Thomas (writer), Gary Hartle (pencils), Mike DeCarlo (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Spirits of Vengeance#19 (February, 1994) - David Quinn (writer), Henry Martinez (pencils), Bud LaRosa (inks)
Nightstalkers#18 (April, 1994) - Frank Lovece (writer), Douglas Wheatley (pencils), Frank Turner (inks)
Blade: Vampire Hunter I#4-5 (October-November, 1994) - Ian Edginton (writer), Douglas Wheatley (pencils), Steve Moncuse (inks), Chris Cooper (editor)
Tomb of Dracula IV#2 (January, 2005) - Bruce Jones & Robert Rodi (writer), Jamie Tolagson (pencils), Scott Koblish & Tom Palmer (inks), Warren Simons & John Miesegaes (editors)
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Hardcover#7: MAGIC (2009) - David Sexton (writer), Jeff Younquist & Jennifer Gruenwald (editors)


Last updated: 08/15/07

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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