GWANZULUM

Classification: Extraterrestrial humanoids (more or less)

Location/Base of Operations: Adeki, eastern spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy;
    formerly nomadic across space, possibly across realities (see comments)

Known Members: Dozy, Glib, Glop, Zed (see comments);
    impersonated Adric, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown, Cheetara, the Doctor (first through sixth incarnations), Frobisher (Avan Tarklu), Katarina, Lion-O, James Robert "Jamie" McCrimmon, Sara Kingdom, Wilykat, Wilykit

Affiliations: Mumm-Ra

Enemies: Adekians, Albert Morden, Combat Colin (Colin Doobrey-Smiff), the Doctor (7th incarnation), the Ghostbusters (Egon Spengler, Ray Stanz, Peter Venkman, Winston Zeddemore), Hammerhead, Ro-Ber Bill, Semi-Automatic Steve, Thundercats (Cheetara, Lion-O, Panthro, Snarf, Tygra, Wilykat, Wilykit)  

First Appearance: (Upper body, from behind and in shadows) Transformers and Action Force#160/2 (9th April 1988);
    (fully visible) Transformers and Action Force#161/2 (16th April 1988)

Powers/Abilities: Gwanzulum are shapeshifters, capable of transforming into exact duplicates of other beings (right down to clothing), inanimate objects such as hammers, hats and boots, and even complex machinery such as tanks. 

    Their shapeshifting gives off psychokinetic energy, which can be detected with suitable equipment. In what is presumably their natural appearance they have no heads or necks, with both eyes and ears resting atop a roughly egg-shaped torso, and wide fang-filled mouths in the lower torsos. 

    They are energy leeches, parasitic killers who drain their victims' life energies in order to fuel their shapeshifting. Somewhat telepathic, they can read a target's mind in order to then successfully impersonate people their victim knows, not only matching the appearance but acting in the way their victim would expect the impersonated to and recalling details that the victim would believe only their friend would know. However, they sometimes get information wrong, allowing a victim to see through the deception. 

Traits: Warlike and murderous, the Gwanzulum live to cause fear and to conquer.

Type: Semi-humanoid bilaterally symmetric bipeds (no neck, head is part of upper torso)
Eyes: Two (variable); frequently red iris or yellow schlera (variable) 
Fingers: Three (three fingers, plus opposable thumb) (variable)
Toes: Three to four (variable)
Skin color: Unrevealed (fully covered with fur in natural form)
Hair color: Blue fur (variable)
Average height: 4"

History: (Doctor Who Magazine#142 (fb)) - The Gwanzulum believed themselves to be the first universe's original shapeshifters, pre-dating the evolution of other shapeshifting species like the Whifferdills and Kymbra Chimera by eons.

(Transformers and Action Force#160/2) - On a Saturday morning unlike any other, a Gwanzulum spaceship landed in Wallytown, U.K., ignoring traffic warden Albert Morden's protests that they couldn't park there. As townsfolk fled the area, local heroes Combat Colin and his sidekick Semi-Automatic Steve approached cautiously in their Combat Tank. 

    Steve began to disembark to take a closer look, but Colin stopped him, pointing out that as a mere assistant Steve's legs would turn to jelly at the sight of whatever lurked within the craft, whereas he, as the leader, had battle-hardened nerves of steel, and therefore should go first. A second later a hatch opened in the front of the spaceship, and a blue-furred, vaguely egg-shaped alien began to emerge...at which point Colin shreaked like a terrified child and leapt back into Steve's arms.   

(Transformers and Action Force#161/2) - Taking great pleasure in Steve and Colin's obvious fear, the aliens identified themselves as Gwanzulum, and answered Steve's query as to what powers they might possess by boasting of their sharp teeth. Recovering from his initial fright, Colin disdainfully pointed out that he and Steve were protected from fangs by Adamantium-reinforced combat trousers. 

    Colin was pleased to see that this seemed to have outwitted the Gwanzulum, but a second later the Gwanzulum spokesman responded that he had forgotten to mention they were also shapeshifters as he turned into a giant hammer and smashed down on Colin's head, while another Gwanzulum transformed into a massive boot and kicked Steve. 

  

(Transformers and Action Force#162/2) - The Gwanzulum began attacking everyone and everything in the vicinity, taking on various shapes intended to maximize the fear generated in their targets, such as a postbox with teeth for a mailman and a terrifying tree for a dog. Colin and Steve leapt into the Combat Tank, sure that a blast from its gun would deal with the Gwanzulum, but one of the Gwanzulum simply transformed into an even bigger tank and blew apart the Combat Tank. With Steve knocked out, the stunned Colin painfully asked the gloating Gwanzulum if one of them could become a hospital bed.    

 

(Transformers and Action Force#163/2) - The Gwanzulum advanced on Colin and Steve, taking on various shapes to easily counter the weapons the two heroes were firing at them. Then Colin's wooly hat bit his nose, and Colin realized with exasperation that one of the Gwanzulum had switched places with his real hat. 

    Declaring this the last straw, Colin had Steve wheel on their secret weapon, hidden from the curious Gwanzulum beneath a tarpaulin. Pulling the covering away, Colin revealed his "soppy" Aunt Mabel, who launched herself at the Gwanzulum, declaring them cute and in need of a cuddle and kiss. Terrified, the Gwanzulum fled back to their spaceship and launched back into space, abandoning their invasion. The world had been saved, but at a terrible sacrifice...lacking aliens to go for, Aunt Mabel turned on Steve instead, crushing him in her iron embrace as she rained kisses down on him. The Gwanzulum meanwhile vowed to return, sometime and somewhere.

(The Real Ghostbusters#9/4 (fb) - BTS) - Landing in the heart of Wyoming, U.S.A., four Gwanzulum took residence in a dilapidated abandoned house and began terrorizing the locals.

(The Real Ghostbusters#9/4) - Investigating reports of monstrous ghosts scaring people, the Ghostbusters visited Wyoming, and tracked psychokinetic energy readings to the Gwanzulums' hideout. Bursting in ready for a fight, the Ghostbusters instead found the Gwanzulums disguised as an elderly lady and her three cats, Glib, Glop and Dozy. After confirming there was no one else in the house, and accepting the resident's insistence that there were no ghosts, the Ghostbusters apologized and went back outside to their vehicle, Ecto-1. Egon Spengler was unsure, noting his PKE (Psycho-Kinetic Energy) meter had never been this wrong before, and reminding the others of the reports they had received, but Winston Zeddemore dismissed the latter as hoax calls.

    However, at that moment Ray Stanz noticed that there was a funny glow surrounding a figure standing inside by a window, and Egon's PKE meter went off again. Racing back inside, the Ghostbusters found four identical copies of Winston Zeddemore in the living room. Realizing there was no point trying to trick the investigators anymore, the Zeddemore clones identified themselves as the Gwanzulum, then transformed themselves into their natural forms and attacked. The Ghostbusters fired their proton packs at the Gwanzulum, but rather than being hurt, the Gwanzulums instead seemed to be literally tickled by it, to the point where they begged the Ghostbusters to stop. Perturbed, the Ghostbusters ceased fire, and activated their ghost trap as the Gwanzulums staggered around, dazed. Again wracked with laughter, the Gwanzulum declared they'd had enough, and vanished. Spengler confirmed that the trap had not registered any ectoplasmic entrapment, confirming the Gwanzulum had escaped. 

    As the Ghostbusters departed in Ecto-1, hoping they would never encounter "ghosts" like this again, they failed to notice the Gwanzulums's spaceship taking off from behind the house. Onboard the Gwanzulum noted with annoyance that the humans had discovered their one weakness, and cancelled their invasion.

(Thundercats#66/1) - On Third Earth (apparently an alternate future Earth), the villainous Mumm-Ra the Ever Living employed four Gwanzulum to disrupt a peace conference set up by the Thundercats to end the conflict between the robotic bearlike Berbils and cybernetic pirate Berserkers. Deposited by Mumm-Ra in cocoons near the Thundercats' Cat's Lair base, two of the Gwanzulum assumed the forms of Thundercats' leader Lion-O and his ally Cheetara, captured the youthful Thundercats Wilykat and Wilykit when they discovered the cocoons, and left them restrained and hanging from a tree encased in their vacated cocoons, for the other two Gwanzulum to deal with when they awoke.

(Thundercats#66/1 - BTS) - Slipping inside Cat's Lair, the two Gwanzulum overpowered the real Lion-O and Cheetara during a break in the conference, and left them tied up in a supply closet.

(Thundercats#66/1) - "Lion-O" caught up with the Berserkers' delegate, Hammerhead, while he was alone, and deliberately insulted and antagonized him, hoping to make him storm out of the conference. "Cheetara" did likewise with Ro-Ber Bill, delegate for the Berbils.

(Thundercats#67/1) - The two remaining Gwanzulum emerged from their cocoons, having taken on Wilykat and Wilykit's forms, and menaced the real ones, but the young Thundercats managed to get their arms free and cut the binding holding aloft the cocoons they had been imprisoned in, so that they dropped heavily on top of the doppelgangers. Freed, the two Thundercats then swiftly subdued the Gwanzulum impostors. Meanwhile, in Cat's Lair, Ro-Ber Bill and Hammerhead ran into one another, and despite initially arguing and almost coming to blows, began to compare recent events. At roughly the same time, the Thundercats Snarf discovered the real Lion-O and Cheetara and released them. 

    Oblivious to the rapid derailing of their plans, the fake Lion-O and Cheetara took some pleasure in insulting Thundercats Panthro and Tygra, then walked away, straight into the path of Hammerhead and Ro-Ber Bill, who had decided they both hated the way they had been treated more than they disliked one another, and had set aside their differences to get revenge. Just after they overpowered the two Gwanzulum and tied them up, the real Thundercats arrived and exposed the deception. Accepting that co-operation could work between them, Hammerhead and Ro-Ber Bill shook hands, and Mumm-Ra, covertly observing from his distant base, screamed in frustrated rage.

(Doctor Who Magazine#142 (fb)) -  At some point the Gwanzulum became embroiled in the Shaper Wars, a genocidal conflict between shapeshifting species that almost wiped out the Whifferdills. The last surviving Gwanzulum landed on the planet Adeki, a luscious green planet teeming with life, and fed off the Adekians, who lived beneath the surface in ornate cities. Dying out, the Adekians painted their tunnel walls with pictorial warnings detailing the Gwanzulums' history and the fate of Adeki. Eventually only the Gwanzulum were left alive on Adeki, a world whose surface was reduced to a lifeless wasteland adorned intermittently by dead trees and empty pools of water.  

(Doctor Who Magazine#141) - The Gallifreyan Time Lord known as the Doctor landed on Adeki, and was secretly watched by Gwanzulum as he found his way to the underground city. Investigating, he discovered some Adekians corpses, so old they turned to dust when he touched them. The Gwanzulum read his mind and assumed the forms of past companions of the Doctor who had died while travelling with him, hoping to exploit his feelings of guilt and trick the Time Lord into taking them to a new world in his TARDIS, but, presumably fearing he could only take a small number of people in his seemingly tiny vessel, began arguing with one another over who deserved to go. Trying to play on his feelings, one Gwanzulum, having taken the form of the Greek handmaid Katarina, accused the Doctor of having celebrated their deaths, and he responded in anguish that he had never wanted anyone to die, prompting another Gwanzulum, wearing the face of companion Peri Brown, to retort that they had died anyway. However, this set off alarms in the Doctor's mind, because though he had believed Peri dead when she left his company, he had subsequently learned of her survival. Picking up on this, a Gwanzulum disguised as Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom angrily pointed out the mistake and struck "Peri," triggering a fight between the Gwanzulum. Guilt still clouding his thoughts, the Doctor remained confused at the presence of his dead friends, but was prompted by a new arrival, a Gwanzulum posing as his Whifferdill friend Frobisher, to intervene. Realizing their original plan had fallen apart, the arguing Gwanzulum turned on the Doctor, abandoning their disguises to menace him.  

(Doctor Who Magazine#142) - While some of the Gwanzulum chased the Doctor through the tunnels, other took the forms of his earlier incarnations, and intervened to "rescue" him. Now claiming that a temporal disruption had caused them all to come to the same point in time and space, breaking the laws of time, the "Doctors" explained that the "companions" had been Gwanzulum, telepathic shapeshifters, and advised that they should all depart via the TARDIS immediately in order to get back to their own timestreams. Still reeling from his experience, the real Doctor overlooked one fake acting out of character by dismissing the idea of exploring the city further as "boring," and tried to hurry the Doctor when he discovered the Adeki's wall paintings as they headed back to the surface, though one Gwanzulum couldn't resist boastfully clarifying that the Gwanzulum were not just shapeshifters, but the original shapeshifters. 

    On the surface, two Gwanzulum unsuccessfully tried to blast their way into the TARDIS with a laser, the explosive sound causing the others to rush to the surface, fearing their compatriots had damaged the vessel, and so leaving the Doctor alone to uncover part of the paintings the Gwanzulum had tried to cover over, the segment that identified the Gwanzulum's parasitic nature. He rushed to warn "himself," but moments after he reached the TARDIS, a handful of Gwanzulum in their natural forms emerged from the tunnels and encircled the "Doctors," hoping this would pressure the real Doctor into letting the others into the ship. However, needing the Doctor to unlock the vessel, they hung back, thereby raising his suspicions. When the "fourth Doctor" noted that a field laser could easily take out the Gwanzulum while they were out in the open like this, the uncharacteristic suggestion of using gratuitous violence as a means to an end alerted the real Doctor to the deception. Confirming his suspicions by suggesting they enter the TARDIS in age order, youngest first, an offer the "first Doctor" naturally declined, the real Doctor falsely informed the "other Doctors" that only one of them could enter at a time due to the ship's defences, and told the others to wait outside while he went in and disarmed them. The Gwanzulum let the Doctor enter his TARDIS alone, and he swiftly shut the doors and initiated its dematerialization, informing the protesting Gwanzulum via the TARDIS monitor of how he had seen through their trick, and that he would not take them to another world to drain dry. Blaming one another for their failure, the Gwanzulum began fighting, with one bewailing that they would never get off Adeki, but another chastised him; sooner or later there would be other travelers to fool.  

Comments: Created by writer John Freeman and artist Lee Sullivan, for Planet of the Dead, an anniversary story in Doctor Who Magazine, where the Gwanzulum's shapeshifting abilities allowed the story to feature several past Doctors and companions. Editor Richard Starkings decided to use the Gwanzulum across multiple titles around the same time, to see if the readers noticed their "secret invasion." Due to the different titles' publishing schedules, this resulted in the Gwanzulum making their actual debut in Lew Stringer's Combat Colin.  

"We have big eyes. And sharp teeth!" seems to be the Gwanzulum's catchphrase. They say this, or a close variation thereof, in three out of their four adventures, when they drop their disguises, presumably as a means of inspiring terror. The Gwanzulum fleeing from Aunt Mabel in their debut story is obviously part of the humor inherent in the irreverent Combat Colin strip, but it actually makes sense once the Gwanzulum backstory is revealed in their Doctor Who appearance. Despite their fangs and taking on the forms of deadly weapons, they aren't actually out to directly kill those they target, but instead want to generate terror to feed off. They need their victims to live as long as possible if they want to get a proper meal. Aunt Mabel, lacking any fear whatsoever, and seeing them instead as cute and cuddly, is effectively toxic to the empathic Gwanzulum, who feed off negative emotions and can't stand positive ones. That's probably also why they considered the effect of the Ghostbusters' equipment a problem; the "weakness" exposed wasn't so much the weapons as their effect, making the Gwanzulum experience a non-sadistic pleasure.

    Combat Colin is from Reality-616, but the Ghostbusters probably aren't, the Thundercats definitely aren't, and the Doctor can visit there but probably wasn't at the time he encountered the Gwanzulum. So the Gwanzulum encountered in the tales above are either from a bunch of different realities, or else their species can move between realities. Since there's no hard evidence either way, for simplicity's sake, I've covered all their appearances as a single entry, rather than splitting it into an entry for each realities' Gwanzulums. There are four Gwanzulum who face Colin, four who take on the Ghostbusters, and four who take on the Thundercats, so it might even be the same four individuals. The Ghostbusters' foes name themselves, but these might be aliases, especially as they are wearing the form of Winston Zeddemore at the point when they call one of the group Zed.

    The Doctor Who strip was originally in black and white, but the colored images used from it on this page come from Doctor Who Classic Comics, a reprint series published by Marvel U.K. When IDW reprinted the story in one of its collections, the Gwanzulum became brown-furred, rather than blue (see left).

    I think I've accounted for all the Gwanzulum appearances across Marvel U.K., but it's entirely possible I missed one or more. If anyone reading this knows of another, please let us know. I've seen reference online to them appearing in Robo-Capers, another Lew Stringer strip, but that seems unlikely as it ran in Transformers until it was replaced by Combat Colin, so (afaik) it ended long before the Gwanzulum first showed up.  

Profile by Loki.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Gwanzulum have no known connections to:


Adekians

The Adekians were a humanoid species who lived underground on the planet Adeki until the Gwanzulum landed there and drained it and them dry. Before they died out, the Adekians left paintings on their tunnel walls, warning future travelers of their fate.

--Doctor Who Magazine#141-142

 

 


images: (without ads)
Doctor Who Magazine#142, p28 (p6 of strip), pan2 (main)
Transformers and Action Force#161, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan2 (Gwanzulums "head" shot)
Transformers and Action Force#161, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan1 (Gwanzulums confronting Combat Colin and Semi-Automatic Steve)
Transformers and Action Force#162, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan3 (assuming tank form)
Transformers and Action Force#163, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan2 (attacking Colin and Steve)
Transformers and Action Force#163, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan5 (fleeing from Aunt Mabel)
The Real Ghostbusters#9, p20 (p3 of 4th story), pan5-6 (transforming from Zeddemore's form and attacking)
Thundercats#67/1, p6, pan5 (transforming out of their Thundercat disguised while Ro-Ber Bill and Hammerhead shake hands)
Doctor Who Magazine#141, p30 (p8 of story), pan5 (attacking the Doctor)
Transformers and Action Force#163, p23 (p1 of Combat Colin strip), pan1 (lone Gwanzulum laughing)
Doctor Who Magazine#141, p25 (p3 of story), pan1 (Adeki city, partially in ruins, with tiny Doctor left to give scale)
Doctor Who Magazine#142, p23 (p1 of story), pan3 (dead Adekian)


Appearances:
Transformers and Action Force#160-163 (9th-30th April 1988) - Lew Stringer (writer, artist), Richard Starkings (editor)
Thundercats#66-67 (18th-25th June 1988) - Perry Conway (plot), Mike Collins (script), Martin Griffiths (pencils), Simon Coleby (inks), Steve White (editor) 
The Real Ghostbusters#9 (16th July 1988) - John Freeman (writer), Brian Williamson and Tim Perkins (art), editor unknown (possibly Richard Starkings)
Doctor Who Magazine#141-142 (October-November 1988) - John Freeman (writer), Lee Sullivan (artist), Richard Starkings (editor)


First Posted: 06/16/2018
Last updated: 06/16/2018

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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