THOSE WHO SIT ABOVE IN SHADOW
Membership: None identified (see comments)
Purpose: Accumulation of power by drawing energy off of the cycle of the death and rebirth of Asgard (and possibly others) as well as perpetuating that cycle
Affiliations: All Asgardians (and possibly others, pawns)
Enemies: Loki, Odin, Thor, indirectly all Asgardians (and possibly others), Verity
Base of Operations: possibly an extra-dimensional realm
Aliases: They Who Sit Above in Shadow, We Who Sit Above
in Shadow, We Who Live Above in Shadow
First Appearance: X-Men/Alpha Flight I#1 (December, 1985)
Powers/Abilities: While their abilities are largely unknown, Those Who Sit Above In Shadow claimed to be nearly all powerful and omnipotent. They claimed to be far beyond the understanding of an Asgardian god. They also claimed that they knew all possible outcomes in a given situation, making them all-knowing as well. In their own realm, this might be true, and they were probably incredibly powerful seeing as they absorb massive amounts of energy from the cycle of death and rebirth of Asgard, which should give them power beyond belief. However, they seemed to have very limited control outside their own realm, as they could not stop Thor from acting. They all possibly once had powers on par with a godhead such as Zeus or Odin.
History: The true nature of Those Who Sit Above In Shadow is unclear (see comments).
(Thor II#84 (fb)) - Asgard, the realm of the Norse Gods, exists in a cycle. In the end, it is destroyed in a final battle called Ragnarok, and then it is reborn, and the cycle begins again. Those Who Sit Above In Shadow were beings that were either given life by the energy of that cycle or beings that caused the cycle to begin and continue in the first place. Either way, they drew upon the energy of the cycle of Asgard's death and rebirth and relied upon it. Not only did they live off that energy, but it made them incalculably powerful. They oversaw Asgard's birth and death many times, becoming more powerful each time. Apparently, every cycle, they revealed themselves to Odin when he gained his near unlimited wisdom. Their existence was a myth on Asgard itself, with only Odin knowing the truth. Eventually, in the most recent cycle, Odin found a way to end the cycle by sending Thor to live in the world of man, because while Those Who Sit Above In Shadow could easily predict any outcome of the actions of the gods, they could not predict what the Lord of Asgard might do if he were influenced by man as well as god.
(X-Men/Alpha Flight I#1 (fb) - BTS) - Loki met with They Who Sit
Above in Shadow and made a bargain with them, agreeing to perform a good deed
for the people of Earth in order to prove himself worthy of their favour. Loki
created the Firefountain to empower the passengers of a plane flight in Alaska.
(X-Men/Alpha Flight I#1) - Loki met with They Who Sit Above in Shadow and asked that they honor the bargain he had made with them. They replied that although he had performed a good deed, he had yet to win their favour, and suggested that perhaps he needed to learn a lesson in humility, as Thor had once done.
(X-Men/Alpha Flight I#2) - When the people empowered by the Firefountain rejected Loki's gifts, he turned upon them. For doing so, They Who Sit Above in Shadow rejected Loki's petition. When Loki responded in anger, they told him that if he retaliated against those who rejected him, they would make Loki feel their vengeance. Loki undid the effects of his powers and departed.
(Alpha Flight I#50) - They Who Sit Above in Shadow met with Loki after he had deceived Northstar and Aurora into believing their mother was a light elf, and used the Firefountain to remove the demon Raazer from Puck's body. Still not satisifed with Loki, they teleported him to Svartelfheim, where he was attacked by the Dark Elves.
(Thor II#84) - After Thor seemingly sacrificed his very life to gain the wisdom and power of Odin, he awoke in a realm of pitch blackness and stood before Those Who Sit Above In Shadow. They told Thor that he has gone beyond death and become worthy of their notice and that they gave him their blessing and recognition. Thor told Those Who Sit Above In Shadow that he now had sight beyond sight and saw them for what they really were and knew their true motives and nature. Thor berated Those Who Sit Above In Shadow for making a mockery out of the Asgardians by forcing them to live again and again, taking all meaning away from those lives. Those Who Sit Above In Shadow taunted Thor, saying that they were beyond his understanding, he was nothing to them, and he was no threat to their existence or goals. Thor challenged that notion, claiming that he would end the cycle. Those Who Sit Above In Shadow claimed to know all possible outcomes and were not afraid of Thor's threats in the least.
(Thor II#85) - When Thor was about to cause a final ragnarok for all of Asgard, ending the cycle of death and rebirth which Those Who Sit Above In Shadow relied upon, by breaking the threat that was woven by the Fates, Those Who Sit Above In Shadow appeared to Thor and begged him not to end the cycle that gave them life. They admitted that Thor had bested them and offered him a place with them as a chance to become an unbelievably powerful god to the gods. Thor firmly refused and destroyed the tapestry woven by the fates. This action brought about the end of the cycle of death and rebirth of Asgard, and destroyed Those Who Sit Above In Shadow by robbing them of the energy they live off of.
(Loki: Agent of Asgard#14) - In a desolate plain outside the realms and realities, Odin met Those Who Sit Above in Shadow in a dream, and they warned him about their return and the destruction of the Multiverse.
(Loki: Agent of Asgard #16) - After the destruction of the Multiverse caused by the incursions, Loki and Verity had already escaped to the Outside through unrevealed means, with Loki using the last of his power as a God of Stories to preserve the story of Asgardians.
While Verity realized that absolutely everything had ceased to exist, Those Who Sit Above in Shadow confronted Loki.
(Loki: Agent of Asgard#17) - The confrontation began, as Those Who Sit Above In Shadow explain their roles as the creators of the great cycle, and explained how even if the Multiverse was destroyed, stories are still very much alive. It was these Stories which they fed on Ragnarok after Ragnarok. They further elaborated about how Thor (Rune King) halted the great cycle, but as long as there were Gods, War or Stories, they would continue to exist.
Instead of offering the story of "Gods" which Loki has preserved, he instead offered to tell them a story, a story about the origins of the Asgardians, as lies, or stories, which were so wanted, that the universe itself believed in themau, csing them to actualize. Loki then posited that the origins of Creation itself was also formed by stories. He then told how Those Who Sit Above in Shadow in a similar fashion, were created by the Asgardian's fears.
Denying this hesitantly and fearfully, Those Who Sit Above in Shadow retreated.
Loki then mentioned how nobody knew Those Who Sit Above in Shadow’s true nature and that he was bluffing, giving numerous different explanations such as them being Beyonders taking forms to escape their doom.
Comments: Created by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek
It is unclear whether Those Who Sit Above In Shadow caused the cycle of the death and rebirth of Asgard or if they were a product of the energy of that cycle. One would think they caused the cycle due to their actions and Thor's hatred of them, but Thor claimed that they were born out of the cycle and fed on it for sustenance. But if that's the case, then the cycle really isn't their fault. My personal theory is that each member of Those Who Sit Above In Shadow was once the leader or member of a pantheon of gods many thousands of years ago, perhaps from many worlds. However, the races that worshipped them died out and they lost most of their power. But they happened upon Asgard and saw an opportunity to gain nearly unlimited power by causing Asgard to live and die in a cycle and to draw off of the energy of that cycle. Their followers completely died out and they relied on the power of the cycle of Asgard to survive as well. Thus Those Who Sit Above In Shadow were in a sense, born of the cycle after they created it because the cycle made them what they were.
Another theory is that they are Those of the Forgotten Zone. This designation refers to the godheads of pantheons no longer associated with Earth. It was referred to in Marvel Universe: The End #2. These two theories do not interfere with each other. In fact, I choose to believe both are true. This would also explain why their power was so limited in Thor II#85 even though they are allegedly so powerful. Perhaps they were banished to that other realm and need to be granted access to outside of that dimension to influence it or something.
I also think it likely
that they might be the "Elder
Gods of the Hyborian Era," aka the Primal Gods,
I also think that They Who Sit Above in Shadow could responsible for the entire repeating cycle in mythology and even in heroes that we see throughout mythology.
Some of this information is discussed here http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/apphybgod.htm#howdotheyfitin, where I postulated that They Who Sit Above in Shadow might have been responsible, a few YEARS before it was revealed (at least for the Asgardians) in Thor I#84.
An alternate reality version of them showed up in What If II#12.
Is it my imagination, or do they look like
(from l. to r.) Balder, Enchantress, Thor, Sif and Loki?
Before they got an entry in OHotMU 2006 A-Z#11
(and before realizing that MD had already done one) I was working on a
profile for Those Who Sit Above in Shadows. In my profile, I described
them a bit different than the Handbook entry. I named them after the
five basic archetypes of gods: Thunderer, Trickster, War-God, Matriarch
and the Intellectual and suggested they were five quasi non-entities
who existed as shadows of the combined gods of earth. I also suggested
they were the same beings as the Cabeiri who gave Poseidon his trident
and the Curetes who raised Zeus, and suggested they took the likenesses
of the gods appearing before them (Norse for Loki and Thor, Greek for
Zeus and Poseidon.) The only connection I think they have to the
Asgardians is the fact that the Asgardians have been in recurring
incarnations of Ragnarok. Several of the other pantheons have recurring
themes of regeneration and rebirth, but not as obvious as the
They have an entry in OHotMU 2006 A-Z#11.
I've recently taken an interest in
Those Who Sit Above In Shadow and recalled an item from years ago. The
story in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme#3 (March, 1989) begins with
the four Defenders (Brunnhilde the Valkyrie, Andromeda, Interloper and
Manslaughter) in a limbo land of the "dead" where they have been
fighting the forces of the Dragon of the Moon for a long time. After
finally defeating the Dragon's forces, Andromeda begins to voice her
despair and, perhaps in response, a glowing yellow light appears in the
sky and says, "Yes, you have beat back a great danger to all realms, at
cost to yourselves. You deserve something." The light then identifies
itself as "An emissary - - from those who some call ?Those Who Sit
Above? - - whom some call the Vishanti - - but who are nameless. What
boon do you wish in your victory?"
The first time that I read this I thought that writer Peter Gillis was equating Those Who Sit Above with the Vishanti and revealing that these beings were actually nameless. Of course, this idea is no longer viable. Aside from the fact that there were 5 of "Those" and only 3 Vishanti, it has actually been firmly established that the Vishanti are Agamotto, Oshtur and Hoggoth.
Clarifications: No known connection to
Possible connection to:
images: Thor II #84, page 9 panel 4
X-Men/Alpha Flight I#2 (January,
1986) - Chris Claremont (writer), Paul Smith (pencils), Bob Wiacek
(inks), Ann Nocenti & Denny O'Neil (editors) Loki: Agent of Asgard#17 (August,
2015) - Al Ewing (writer), Lee Garbett (artist), Wil Moss (Editor)
Alpha Flight I#50 (September, 1987) - Bill Mantlo (writer), June Brigman (pencils), Whilce Portacio (inks), Carl Potts (editor)
Thor II#84-85 (November-December, 2004) - Michael Avon Oeming & Daniel Berman (writers), Andrea DiVito (artist), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Loki: Agent of Asgard#14 (May, 2015) – Al Ewing (writer), Lee Garbett (artist), Wil Moss (Editor)
Loki: Agent of Asgard#16 (July, 2015) – Al Ewing (writer), Lee Garbett (artist), Wil Moss (Editor)
Loki: Agent of Asgard#17 (August,
2015) - Al Ewing (writer), Lee Garbett (artist), Wil Moss (Editor)
First posted: 10/17/2004
Last updated: 07/13/2020
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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