the HISTORY OF THE SUPREMES
Classification: Magic item (Tome of Eldritch Knowledge)
Users/Possessors: Merlin, Doctor Stephen Strange
First Appearance: Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 (December, 2017)
Powers/Abilities/Functions: The History of the Supremes (which may or may not be its actual name) is a written record of the lives of the Sorcerers Supreme. All completed entries include the final fates of their subjects. However, when entries (like the one for Kushala) are not completed, that means that the fates of their subjects are yet to be determined.
Although the book has not been described as possessing any magical attributes, the fact that it supposedly has entries for every Sorcerer Supreme from throughout time suggests that it *somehow* contains far more pages than a normal book of its apparent thickness could possibly hold.
History: Nothing is known about the origin of the book which contains a written history of the Sorcerers Supremes from past, present, future and throughout infinity.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, this book came into the possession of the sorcerer Merlin of Camelot.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, Merlin made the mistake of reading his own page in the History of the Supremes. Learning his fate (as recorded in the book) almost drove Merlin mad.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 (fb) - BTS) - Eventually, Merlin realized (or decided) that the time had come for him to carry out the tasks which the book recorded him as having done. Accordingly, Merlin took the book and traveled through time and space to the Beaches of Nevermore in the time of Yao (i.e., the early 15th century).
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#11 - BTS) - Merlin had The History of the Supremes somewhere on his person while he waited for four particular time-travelers to arrive at the Beaches of Nevermore. When Doctor Strange, Kushala, Yao and the Mindful One finally did arrive, Merlin greeted them, saying, "Ah, at last, you're all here. It's high time we finished this, don't you think?"
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12) - Merlin held The History of the Supremes in his hand as he spoke with the new arrivals who were surprised to see him alive. When Kushala asked how it was possible, Merlin consulted the book and then stated, "Ah, you must be...Kushala. Yes. Hm. What a fascinating history." He then offered his apologies and identified himself as Merlin. Puzzled, Kushala replied that they had met but Merlin corrected her, saying, "Not yet, I'm afraid..." while continuing to read Kushala's entry. In response, both the Mindful One and Strange said that they were confused.
Merlin then apologized again, stating that a Supreme should never read their own page and that he had made that mistake and it had almost driven him mad. Merlin then wondered aloud if it actually had driven him mad and speculated that he supposed he never should have left Otherworld and "never put on this..." but Strange interrupted him by asking what he was doing there. Merlin replied that it said in the pages of the book that he (Merlin) had come there to help them do the impossible and to protect Yao. Merlin then observed that they were already failing at that task, causing the others to realize that Yao had gone off on his own. As Strange, Kushala and Mindful departed to search for Yao, Merlin stated that it was beginning at last and that he would just go and get them a few more hands to help because he knew exactly who they needed. Merlin then vanished into time, ignoring Strange's command of "No more time travel!"
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 - BTS) - Guided by what was written in the book, Merlin traveled to various time periods and realities in order to gather together a group of at least 34 sorcerers, all of whom had at one time or another been students of the Ancient One. Among the group were Doctor Voodoo (Jericho Drumm), Professor Imam (Wizard Supreme of Earth-712), Wiccan (an elderly Billy Kaplan from a future version of Earth-13729), Margali Szardos, the Conjuror (an elderly Nina), Zhered-Na (from pre-cataclysmic Atlantis), Strange (from Earth-928), Baron Karl Mordo, Clea (from the Dark Dimension), Doc Magus (from Earth-982) and Krugarr (from Earth-691).
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12) - Yao followed the map on his arm and, with significant help from Kushala, Mindful and Strange, passed the Trials of the Worthy along the way, but the foursome eventually came to an impenetrable barrier that had been warded by magic from every corner of the universe. As Yao announced that they could go no further, Merlin appeared out of the timestream, bringing with him all of the sorcerers he had gathered. Once some old friends had been reunited, Merlin revealed that he was from a point in his life before he recruited them to defeat the Forgotten. When Strange asked why he hadn't assembled the current group to deal with the Forgotten, Merlin replied, "Because there are no beginnings, Stephen. Nor endings. There is only now. This is happening as it was written in this book. The history of the Supremes. Past. Present. Future. Infinity." Merlin then explained that, over the course of their recent encounters with the Forgotten, Newton, the Author of the Word of God and Doctor Doom (Valeria Richards from Wiccan's future Earth), Strange, Kushala, Yao, Nina, Wiccan and Mindful had learned everything that was needed to get them all through Yao's map, to help Yao finish the last stage of his trials and to get him where he needed to be. Merlin then added that they had needed every ingredient, including the last Word of God, to be in the right place at the right time, and that that time was now. Strange then stated that Merlin had known that he was going to die when he had recruited them all to fight the Forgotten but Merlin said no, he had known that by bringing them all together they would save Yao.
Merlin then placed the last Word of God on his left hand and called upon the sorcerers to focus their magic on that hand. As Merlin spoke a spell, all of the sorcerers present did focus their magic and the resulting immense blast of magical energy shattered the barrier, revealing a cave opening that was the path to the Well of Longing where the Cup of Eternity awaited Yao. After all of the assembled sorcerers had bowed to Yao to honor him as their master, Yao asked them all to forgive him for never mentioning any of this when they had met him for the first time, and then he entered the cave.
Once Yao had left, Merlin announced that he had some people to return to their own times but Strange, Kushala and Mindful were not part of his spell. When Kushala protested that they had to go with him, Merlin revealed that their entries were not completed in the book. Kushala asked what that meant, and Merlin replied, "Your fates are yet to be determined. Live wisely. Remember...Time is cruel. But a life well lived is not..."
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12 - BTS) - Merlin returned all of the sorcerers he had gathered to their own times.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12) - At some later point in his life, Merlin brought the book with him when he traveled to New York City in the early 21st century. After gaining entry into Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, Merlin wandered through its many rooms until he found a small library (or reading room) that he declared was "Perfect." After removing the History of the Supremes from beneath his cloak, Merlin sat down at the desk and began to write a message to Stephen Strange on several blank pages within the book.
Locks are magic. Doors are magic. I am magic. As Sorcerers Supreme, we can unlock and control the universe's greatest mysteries. Except time.
Time is cruel. Unforgiving. And above all, relentless. It stops for no one. No thing. Not even for magic.
Because time is infinite, there are no beginnings. Which means, of course, that there are no endings. I take comfort in that. And I hope you will, too.
All of this is revealed in the book you now hold in your hands, Stephen. I pray for the sake of your sanity that you do not read past this page...
Leaders needed to be revealed.
Demons needed to be faced.
Destinies needed to be tested.
Loved ones needed to be saved.
Doubts needed to be overcome.
Heroes needed to be born.
Should you be tempted to keep reading, Stephen...I hope the knowledge within this volume gives you the freedom it has given me.
Minus the mild insanity, of course.
There are no beginnings. No endings. Time moves on. With us. Without us.
All that matters, in the end...are the people we meet in between...and the moments we are lucky enough to share with them.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12) - Having finished writing his message to Stephen Strange, Merlin closed the book and placed it on one of the shelves in Strange's library. Merlin then left the Sanctum Sanctorum (presumably to embark on his final mission and meet his fate).
(Doctor Strange Annual II#1/2) - In his final mission, Merlin traveled back to Yao's time. Arriving in the dungeon where the Knights of Never had imprisoned Yao, Merlin appeared to be surprised to find that Yao was "just" a child and that he had not yet used the map he had stolen to attain immortality. Despite his apparent mistake, Merlin freed Yao from his bonds and transported him away from the dungeon while identifying himself as Merlin and stating that he needed Yao's help.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#2-5 (fbs)) - In his final mission, Merlin gathered Sir Isaac Newton and younger versions of Wiccan, Demon Rider, the Conjuror, and the Mindful One to help him and Yao oppose the recently-escaped menace of the Forgotten.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme# 1 (fb) - BTS) - Merlin and the Supremes battled the Forgotten's beast-men on several occasions, but the Forgotten was not present during any of these encounters.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#1) - While battling the Forgotten's beast-men in the time of Camelot, Merlin decided that the Sorcerers Supreme needed more help so he traveled forward in time to the early 21st Century to recruit (i.e., kidnap) Doctor Strange. Merlin and Strange then traveled back in time and were able to join the battle just seconds after the younger Merlin left for the future. Soon afterwards, the Forgotten finally appeared and swiftly crushed Merlin to death.
(Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12) - After returning to the early 21st Century, Strange, Kushala and Mindful arrived at the front door of Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum where an agitated Zelma Stanton greeted them with news that a interdimensional psycho-pomp was feeding on souls in Washington Heights! Strange told Kushala and Mindful that they were both welcome to stay as long as they'd like, and then he and Zelma left to deal with the psycho-pomp.
And watching all of this from above, unseen, were the spirits of both Merlin and the Ancient One.
Comments: Created by Robbie Thompson and Nathan Stockman.
This list has not yet been updated to include the information from
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme, but the list of Sorcerers
Supreme (or Sorcerer Supremes) is here.
To clarify: Over the course of their adventures, Doctor Strange's leadership skills were revealed, Kushala faced (and accepted) the demon she carried, Yao tested his destiny, Nina saved her beloved brother, Wiccan overcame his doubts about his worthiness to be a Sorcerer Supreme, and a hero (Mindful) was born.
Although Merlin implied that the book contained the history of all of the Supremes, he did not actually say the word "all." As a result, it's not clear exactly how extensive the collection of recorded histories is supposed to be. For example, does the book only contain histories for all of the Sorcerers Supreme who were humans from Earth-616? Or does it include aliens who were Sorcerers Supreme for the whole Earth-616 dimension? And what about alternate Earths? Does the book include entries for, among others, Professor Imam from Earth-712 and Krugarr from Earth-691? Sadly, no answers to any of these questions have yet been revealed.
As for the book itself, it's rather ironic that so little is known about the history of something that supposedly holds the recorded life histories of the Sorcerers Supreme. Nothing has been revealed about who wrote the entries in the book, not even if it was one writer or many. Similarly, nothing has been revealed about where or when any of the entries were written. Finally, Merlin did not reveal anything about where or when he acquired the book or about whoever had possessed it before he acquired it.
Among the mysteries concerning this book are three things that I find really interesting and wish had been explained. The first is how exactly any writer (or writers) could possibly have learned the biographical data that was recorded in the book. After all, in order to function as protectors of the world, the Sorcerers Supreme must (or should) keep their lives as private as possible or they would risk their enemies learning things that could be used against them. So, considering the magical resources that they could use to maintain their privacy, it seems likely that the writer(s) must have had extraordinary sources of information. This could mean that he/she/they had remarkable sensory abilities or maybe they had access to something like the Orb of Agamotto.
The second interesting aspect of this book is its apparent accuracy. According to Merlin, the completed entries in the book were those of sorcerers whose fates had been determined, a statement which implies that those fates were inevitable. Since the Marvel Universe is a continuity in which "free will" seems to exist, it seems odd that the writer(s) could somehow know whose fates were determined and whose were not. Of course, only two (or three or four) of the fates recorded in the book were ever mentioned. Of those, Merlin stated that the fates of Kushala (and possibly Mindful and Strange) were "yet to be determined" but Merlin's words about how he had made the mistake of reading his own page suggests that his fate was one of those destinies that was fixed and unavoidable.
The third interesting aspect of this book is why it was actually written. On the face of it, the book is simply be a historical record of the lives of the Sorcerers Supreme. However, the way in which it affected Merlin's life suggests that it also functions as a tool which the writer(s) sometimes use to manipulate the lives of some of those sorcerers. After all, Merlin's activities during his final two adventures are very complicated, with the younger Merlin acting to help Yao while his older self interacted with slightly-younger versions of Yao and the other Sorcerers Supreme to defeat the Forgotten. By his own account, Merlin only did what he did because he was following what his entry in the book said he was going to do. Furthermore, some of those actions were clearly meant to have very specific outcomes, like Merlin kidnapping Strange just after he had obtained the Bones of Eh-Yuh which would be crucial to Strange and the others later escaping from Newton's trap. As Merlin himself said, every ingredient had to be in the right place, at the right time, in order for Yao to gain the extended lifespan that would make it possible for him to become the Ancient One.
So, if the actions which Merlin took to help Yao become the Ancient One were laid out for him to follow in the History of the Supremes, who designed their fates? What entity in the Marvel Universe could have manipulated the lives of Merlin, Stephen Strange, Nina, Kushala, Billy Kaplan and the others in the same way as writer Robbie Thompson did in the real world? Some good candidates would be the cosmic entities known as the Fates who claim to have been actively been controlling the fate of all life for 6 billion years and humanity for the past 2 million years. However, I don't find this explanation to be appealing because their interest in humanity is so generalized and their motivations for interacting with humans seem to have often been for their own malevolent amusement. I would prefer it if whoever manipulated Merlin and the others did so for a more benevolent reason, like how Master Order and Lord Chaos chose to endow Peter Parker with the destiny of being Spider-Man so that he would one day help Adam Warlock defeat Thanos.
With that in mind, perhaps it was the immensely powerful Vishanti who used the book to manipulate events so as to enable Yao to eventually become Earth's Sorcerer Supreme? After all, Agamotto is known to have been the first Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth dimension and it was the Vishanti who chose the Aged Genghis to oversee a contest of sorcery that is held every hundred years to determine who should be the world's Sorcerer Supreme. Maybe the Vishanti saw Yao's potential but knew that he would not regain his immortality without help so they used the book to nudge things along?
Anyway, the reason why I so favor the idea that someone deliberately planned out Merlin's actions in order to create a particular outcome is because the only alternative is that Merlin's actions were part of a causal loop. Consider: If Merlin read his entry in the History and then performed the actions that it said he would do and someone who knew of his actions wrote them down in the book which a younger Merlin then acquired, then that would mean that Merlin's course of action existed without being devised by anyone. Since Merlin was just doing what the book said he would do and the writer merely recorded what Merlin was known to have done, there is no origin for what Merlin did and nobody actually made any choices about what he would do. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
Causal loops make for interesting twist endings in works of fiction but for me any enjoyment is overshadowed by the sheer impossibility that they bring with them. Since a story that includes a causal loop is effectively IMPOSSIBLE, that really shreds any suspension of disbelief that may have been required for me to enjoy the story in the first place, and that greatly reduces the story's entertainment value. It's for that reason that I really hope that some future writer will "reveal" that Merlin's actions in helping Yao were NOT part of a causal loop.
Merlin or Merlyn?
One of the central concepts of the Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme series is that Merlin of Camelot was "the Sorcerer Supreme of the Middle Ages." However, this idea is not consistent with the timeline compiled by Ian McNee which listed Merlin as having won the contest but refusing the title, and that Merlin was then replaced (as Sorcerer Supreme) by a powerful sorcerer whose appearance was always different. Then again, Ian McNee's notes, although they make interesting reading, are not always 100% accurate. For example, the only date that McNee has listed for Zhered-Na is "16,500 BC" but that can't be relevant or correct because Zhered-Na is known to have been killed 20,000 years ago during the Great Cataclysm of 18,000 BC. So, maybe the "facts" provided by the Marvel Tarot should be taken with a grain of salt, as they say.
The 16,500 BC reference was an error. I made a correction in reviewing the book, but it wasn't completed, and it made it into print. The information was corrected for the OHotMU Magic Appendix.
It should also be mentioned that Marvel's "official"
position is that Merlin the human sorcerer from Camelot and Merlyn the humanoid alien from
Otherworld are actually one and the same. Although I dislike this idea and strongly disagree
with it, I will limit myself to making a single observation. Aside from claiming that he was
the "Merlin" who served King Arthur at Camelot, Merlyn has also claimed (or at least implied)
that he was also that Merlin's counterparts from across the multiverse (like Myrr from
Earth-238). Since the idea of a single person being active as multiple versions of the
legendary wizard on multiple alternate Earths during the same time period seems like it
would be very time-consuming, the possibility that those wizards also acted as the Sorcerer
Supremes of their Earths seems rather unlikely.
I thought it was made clear that Merlyn is a gestalt being composed of all the Merlin counterparts across the Multiverse.
His handbook entry says:
are many contradictory tales attributed to Merlyn...and all of them may
be true, because Merlyn and his daughter Roma are physical
amalgamations of their interdimensional counterparts from across the
Multiverse and perhaps beyond, with access to the combined knowledge
and skills of the entire gestalt; however, different aspects of Merlyn
are sometimes apparently capable of independent action, and have even
influenced the overall gestalt to act counter to Merlyn’s normal goals.
Anyway, I thought it worth noting that Robbie Thompson did seem to have the human Merlin of Camelot in mind when he wrote this series. The single mention of how Merlin "supposed (he) never should have left Otherworld" could be a belated attempt to establish that this Merlin was Merlyn after all, but it is ambiguous enough that it doesn't really prove anything.
Of course, the fact that this series was seemingly meant to present THE death of Merlin would argue for the idea that it was the human sorcerer and not the humanoid alien Merlyn. However, Merlin dying as he did in issue #1 is not consistent with the known histories of either Merlin of Camelot or Merlyn from Otherworld. Then again, this series did reveal that the Ancient One had "died" temporarily several times during his term as Sorcerer Supreme and that Newton, Kushala and Nina had held his position during these absences, so maybe this death of Merlin's was also meant to be non-permanent. If so, then it's a bit disappointing because I liked the idea of Merlin helping Yao to become immortal even though he knew that doing so would lead to his own death.
In any event, "Merlin" showed up again, less than a year later, in the pages of Infinity Countdown: Black Widow#1. However, it should be noted that this Merlin existed in another dimension where he was aided by machines that could talk to him, something which sounds more like the alien Merlyn.
Another possibly-discontinuous element from the DSatSS series is the fact that Strange and Merlin seem to have known each other for some time, with Strange addressing Merlin as "My old friend." This came as a complete surprise to me because I don't remember having EVER read a story in which Merlin and Strange interacted. Furthermore, a search of the Merlin/Merlyn profile similarly comes up with NO listings for stories in which they could have met. So, does this mean that Strange and Merlin have secretly been friends for years ever since they first met in a story which has never been written or published? Or was it a mistake?
Finally, according to the terrific "Camelot Trilogy" by
David Michelinie and Bob Layton, at some point before the fall of Camelot, Merlin succumbed
to a fate decreed by the goddess Nimue and laid himself in his own grave, "to sleep for
centuries, until bidden once more to wake." The second part of the trilogy revealed that, in
one alternate future, Merlin remained asleep until the year 2093, and the final part revealed
that, in what was then the "present-day" Marvel Universe, Merlin was actually still asleep in
England even as his mental projection interacted with Tony Stark and Doctor Doom. So, if this
were true, then the Merlin who gathered the Sorcerers Supreme before being killed by the
Forgotten would have had to have come from some time in the future, after he had awakened.
Or maybe Merlin was not CONTINUOUSLY asleep in England from before the fall of Camelot in the
early 6th Century through to the early 21st Century? Or maybe, [insert "Merlin is a liar"
comment from Loki here].
--That's funny! I'll insert his OHotMU description:
origins are shrouded in mystery and misinformation, much of which he
deliberately spread himself. His legendary reputation has led others,
including the psychic Merlin Demonspawn, the Space Phantoms and the
time-traveling Doctor, to impersonate him, further confusing matters.
Merlyn seems to encourage this confusion, seeing all existence as a
series of endless chess games for Omniversal survival, games in which
knowing your opponent is an advantage. Anything he tells others about
himself is suspect, and eyewitness accounts of his actions are unreliable since Merlyn is a master illusionist. Even his daughter Roma claims not to truly know who Merlyn is.
Profile by Donald Campbell.
The History of the Supremes (if that is really what it's called) has no known connections to
One of the many entries in the History of the Supremes, this was the only one that was even partially depicted in-story. The entry covered at least four pages and included several images of Kushala. Since the entry appeared to be hand-written, the illustrations were presumably hand-drawn.
Kushala's entry contained her history and included her participation in two missions that were vital to Yao's survival and his attaining immortality via the Cup of Eternity. However, the fact that her entry was not completed indicated that her fate was yet to be determined.
Merlin had presumably read the entries of all those who had been/were/would be involved in the missions concerning Yao before he recruited them. As such, he was able to recognize Kushala from her entry's illustrations and, once he encountered her in person on the Beaches of Nevermore in Yao's time, he was able to quickly turn to her pages and refresh his memory of what was written there, describing it as "What a fascinating history." When Merlin then introduced himself to her, a puzzled Kushala pointed out that they had met but Merlin corrected her, saying, "Not yet, I'm afraid..." Merlin later revealed that he was "different in time" from the Merlin who Kushala had met for the first time (from her perspective) when he recruited her to help defeat the Forgotten, explaining that he was from before those events.
Later, after all of the sorcerers gathered by Merlin had succeeded in ensuring that Yao would reach the Well of Longing and the Cup of Eternity that would enable him to live long enough to become the Ancient One, Merlin prepared to transport them all back to their own times. It was only then, after Kushala noticed that she, Mindful and Strange were not being affected by Merlin's spell and protested that they had to go with the others, that Merlin revealed that their entries were not completed in the book and explained that that meant that their fates were yet to be determined.
--Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme#12
images: (without ads)
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #12, page 3, panel 3 (main image)
page 19, panel 2 (Merlin writing in the book)
page 19, panel 3 (some of what Merlin wrote in the book)
page 4, panel 5 (part of Kushala's entry)
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #12 (November, 2017) - Robbie Thompson (writer), Nathan Stockman (artist), Darren Shan (editor)
First Posted: 05/20/2019
Last updated: 05/20/2019
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
Non-Marvel Copyright info
All other characters mentioned or pictured are ™ and © 1941-2099 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. If you like this stuff, you should check out the real thing!
Please visit The Marvel Official Site at: http://www.marvel.com
Special Thanks to http://www.g-mart.com/ for hosting the Appendix, Master List, etc.!
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