Real Name: Phraug
Identity/Class: Sub-Species of humanity (Deviant)
Occupation: Emperor, demon-worshipper, would-be world conqueror
(after death) Phraug's corpse was used by the Celestials as a warning to others of the price of hubris
Group Membership: Deviants of Pre-Cataclysmic Lemuria, followers of Father Set
Affiliations: Set; human mercenaries (Lemurian and Muvian); Serpent Men; Deviants of Lemuria (including this guard); conquered humans of Lemuria (including this slave)
Enemies: Atlanteans of Pre-Cataclysmic Atlantis (including
King Kamuu and
also, the SECOND HOST of the CELESTIALS
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: Emperor Phraug
Base of Operations: Deviant Empire in Pre-Cataclysmic Lemuria (c. 18000 BC)
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (1989)
The Deviant rulers of Lemuria first appeared in Eternals I#2 (August, 1976)
Powers/Abilities: Despite his Deviant heritage, Phraug was not known to have possessed any innate superhuman attributes (like enhanced strength or durability). However, by the will of Father Set, the powers bestowed by the Serpent Crown could not be used by its wearer to harm Phraug.
Height: 6' (estimated)
Eyes: Grey (sclera can change between red and white)
Hair: Unrevealed (possibly none)
Fingers: Three (plus opposable thumbs)
(Eternals I#1 (fb) / What If? I#23/2 (fb)) <"eons ago"> - The First Host of the alien Celestials arrived on Earth to perform an environmental study of the planet and to conduct genetic experiments on specimens of the native large-brained bipedal man-apes. The experiments performed by Ziran the Tester resulted in the creation of a genetically-unstable subspecies who would later be called Deviants.
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#7: Appendix: Lemuria) - Millennia ago, Lemuria was a large surface continent and group of islands in what is now the Pacific Ocean.
(Eternals I#2 (fb)) - The Deviants swarmed across the world with their complex weapons, and they conquered it. They built towering cities on island-continents like Lemuria and ruled as kings. They had aircraft and navies of steel which scourged the seas and swept them clean of ancient mankind.
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#7: Appendix: Lemuria) <20,500 years ago> - During the time of King Kull's rule over the kingdom of Valusia on the Thurian mainland, the Lemurian continent was ruled by the Deviants but the Lemurian Isles were still controlled by humans.
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe I#7: Appendix: Lemuria / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) <20,000 years ago> - The Deviants had come to control much of humankind, including the recently-conquered Lemurian Isles, and only Atlantis, then ruled by King Kamuu and Queen Zartra, remained as the last stronghold of human freedom.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) <20,000 years ago> - The ruler of the Deviants of Lemuria was their emperor, Phraug.
(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb) / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) - Also alive at that time was Atra, the greatest human alchemist of the conquered island of Lemuria, and the leader of the humans who plotted to destroy the Deviant Empire.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) - Phraug secretly became a follower of the demonic Elder God, Set. Together, the Deviant emperor and the Elder God schemed to manipulate Atra into creating a powerful mystical weapon for Phraug to wield in the service of Father Set.
(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb) / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) - The alchemists of Lemuria, led by Atra, formed an uneasy alliance with the Serpent Men in order to create the Serpent Crown, a receptacle of boundless mystical energy that was made in the image of Father Set.
(Sub-Mariner I#62/2 - BTS / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) - As emperor, it was presumably Phraug who ordered that a fleet of Lemurian flying warships and Muvian naval vessels manned by human mercenaries should attack the domed capital city of Atlantis.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - A Deviant guard, possibly sent by Phraug, confronted Atra and warned him that the Deviants knew that he was working on a powerful new weapon. The warrior told Atra to turn the weapon over to the palace before nightfall or the Deviants would find it and take it by force.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - In his palace, Phraug was told by a human slave that an alien ship was hovering above the city and that the emperor's scientists believed it was a vessel of the Celestials, the Space Gods. Phraug agreed with that assessment and mused aloud about how their long-missing creators were no doubt expecting the Deviants to bow down in gratitude for their return. Phraug then stated that he had another god and gave the order that the Celestials should be shot down!
Atra suddenly appeared out of nowhere, wearing the Serpent Crown, and Phraug told the slave that he could leave since "the great Atra" had come to pay him a call. After stating that Phraug should not bother to summon his guards because he had seen to it that they would never hear anything again, Atra declared that "today" a new age would begin for humanity as humans would again dominate the Earth, he would be their king and the Deviants would be his slaves. Atra then used the Serpent Crown to fire a lethal blast of mystical energy at Phraug while crying out "Die, tyrant!" but was shocked to see that his power had no effect on the Deviant. Amused, Phraug replied, "Of course not, idiot!" and revealed, to Atra's dismay, that Father Set would not allow Atra to harm him because the two of them (Set and Phraug) had had Atra create the Serpent Crown so that Phraug could wield its power.
(Eternals I#2 (fb) / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - Meanwhile, the Deviants obeyed Phraug's orders and fired their most powerful weapons at the mothership of the alien Celestials but those weapons had no effect.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - Phraug attempted to take the Serpent Crown from Atra but the human held on to it as he tried to keep it for himself. The two would-be world conquerors ended up both holding onto the crown as they attempted to pull it away from their opponent.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - The Celestials, especially Arishem the Judge, witnessed this Earth that had fallen into chaos.
(Eternals I#2 (fb) / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - The Celestials delivered their judgment on this chaotic planet by striking back at the Deviants with a single (atomic) weapon whose terrible power was so great that it shook the entire planet, plunging it into the worldwide disaster known as the Great Cataclysm.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb) - BTS) - Phraug and Atra were still struggling over the Serpent Crown when the Celestial weapon unleashed its immensely powerful explosion, and they maintained their extremely tight holds on the crown even as they died. The Celestials decided that they could use their corpses as a warning to others of the price of hubris so they preserved the skeletal remains in some manner..
(Eternals I#2 (fb) / Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - Tidal waves the size of mountains drowned (much of) the land and all that lived upon it. Lemuria and its sister continents vanished in that one dark day as they and Atlantis sank beneath the raging seas.
(Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (fb)) - When the Second Host of the Celestials departed Earth, the skeletons of Phraug and Atra remained intact amidst the submerged ruins of Lemuria, with each skeleton retaining the same death grip on the Serpent Crown that their living selves had had at their moments of death.
(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb)) - Sometime after the Hyborian Age ended, the water-breathing race known as Homo mermanus appeared in the Atlantic Ocean.
(Sub-Mariner I#10 (fb) / Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb)) - After "centuries" had passed, one tribe split away from the rest and went to live in the Pacific Ocean.
(Marvel Team-Up Annual#5 (fb)) - During their great migration to the Pacific Ocean, a member
of the tribe who would become the Lemurians discovered the Serpent Crown.
(Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe II#19: Serpent Crown entry) - At some point after the water-breathing Lemurians had established their empire in the Pacific Ocean, one Lemurian discovered the Serpent Crown amid the submerged ruins of the Pre-Cataclysmic Lemurian civilization.
(Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9/5 (fb) - BTS) - For some reason that has not been revealed, the Lemurians came to regard the place where the skeletal remains of Atra and Phraug continued to grasp the Serpent Crown as a place that had been cursed by the gods. A legend developed that any who touched the crown would die and the Lemurians began to shun the place. It has not been revealed if this legend had any basis in fact.
(Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9/5 (fb) - BTS) <"roughly two millennia ago"> - After the destruction of his Golden Serpent idol by the Olympian god Neptune, Set decided that he had to find a new pawn to wear the long lost Serpent Crown.
(Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9/5 (fb) - BTS / Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe III#5: Naga entry) <"nearly six hundred years ago"> - Under circumstances that have never been revealed, Naga, the emperor of undersea Lemuria, became a worshipper of Set. Seeing Naga as a valued servant with a great potential for conquering the world in his name, Set gave Naga's face reptilian features as a sign of his favor. Set later instructed Naga to claim the Serpent Crown for himself.
(Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9/5 (fb) - BTS ) - Naga, accompanied by two of his guards and a slave, journeyed to the shunned place where the skeletal remains of Atra and Phraug had somehow been preserved for ages. Once there, the slave was forced to approach the Serpent Crown and retrieve it for Naga. The slave took the crown from the skeletons, breaking their wrists in the process, but the skeletal hands did not relinquish their grasp and the slave's heart suddenly stopped, killing him before he could bring the crown to his master. The guards took this death as a sign that they were not meant to touch the crown, but Naga interpreted it differently, as a sign that "no unworthy man may lay hands on the sacred crown of almighty Set!" Naga then picked up the Serpent Crown himself, and the skeletal hands fell away, as if acknowledging him as their master. Naga placed the Serpent Crown on his head and stated that he had become like unto a god himself!
Comments: Created by Peter Sanderson, Mark Bagley
and Keith Williams.
Deviants (including those of Lemuria) created by Jack Kirby.
Back in 1989, I bought Amazing Spider-Man Annual #23 when it went on sale and I read its stories several times over the years. I also knew that Brother Tode was the ruler of the Deviants of Lemuria and that his name sounded like "toad." And yet, despite this, it wasn't until I began writing this profile that I realized that the name of the emperor of Pre-Cataclysmic Lemuria sounded like "frog." This was clearly an homage to Kirby's choice of name for his Deviant ruler but one that I had somehow missed for OVER THIRTY YEARS! It was right in front of my nose and I couldn't see it.
As I mentioned in another profile, neither of the two skeletal hands
that fell away from the Serpent Crown when Naga took hold of it can belong to Phraug. While the crown had
been grasped by Phraug's right hand and both of the hands depicted were right hands, they both also had four
fingers and a thumb while Phraug's hands had only three fingers and a thumb. Ooops!
The Deviants and their religious beliefs
Although the Celestials were frequently called "Space Gods" in Jack Kirby's Eternals series and were feared by the Deviants and respected by the Eternals, there was no evidence that anybody (except for the ancient Inca) actually worshipped them. There was also no mention of there being any priests or other religious leaders among either the Deviants or the Eternals. However, that changed for the Deviants, beginning with the first issue of the first miniseries, when it was revealed that it was the priests who were in charge of determining which Deviants were "genetically unclean" and were to be sent to the Fire-Pits. Writer Peter B. Gillis also revealed that the priests were actually scientists who had been secretly controlling the Deviants of Lemuria from behind the scenes for millennia. Later, Walter Simonson added the idea that the Deviants worshipped the so-called "Dreaming Celestial" because they believed that he was the only one of the Space Gods involved in the creation of their sub-species. Despite this, nothing had ever been revealed about what gods the Deviants might have worshipped before the coming of the Second Host.
The story that introduced Phraug ("Cataclysm") does not make clear if any other Deviants in Pre-Cataclysmic Lemuria also worshipped Set. Personally, I suspect that Phraug was the only one. After all, if Set worship had been widespread among the Deviants, then the rebellious humans of Lemuria would have known of it since they were undoubtedly spying on their "masters." And if Atra, as the rebel leader, had learned that Deviants also worshipped Set, then he might have begun to wonder if Set was actually going to support him against the Deviants. For this reason, it seems to me to be more likely that only a few (or only one) of the Deviants were Set worshippers.
The events depicted in "Cataclysm" indicated that the reason why Phraug ordered the Celestial starship to be shot down was because he had another god. This is in contrast to what previous accounts have stated, namely that the Deviants were "ever arrogant and cruel (and) saw this visitation as a challenge to their worldwide empire" so they struck first and failed. However, Phraug's story raises the possibility that the Deviants might not have been foolish enough to attack the Celestials if their emperor had not thought that his new god was powerful enough to protect him from the aliens. Then again, maybe the Deviants were sufficiently overconfident that they would have attacked anyway, even if Phraug had not become a Set worshipper.
The earliest of Deviants
I was going to state that Phraug was perhaps the earliest Deviant (i.e., the Deviant from the most distant past era) who had ever been named but then I remembered that other Deviants had been introduced who were also alive at the time of the Great Cataclysm. Given that they came from the same era, it's possible that Phraug interacted with some of these other Deviants. However, since there's no in-story confirmation of any interactions, it would be presumptuous of me to include these characters in the main profile. Instead, here is a list of those Deviants:
1. Kro. This Deviant who was known to be "alive in the days of the flood" has kept his extraordinary longevity a secret from the rest of his people by periodically assuming different identities, a tactic that was aided by the fact that he could use his limited shape-shifting abilities to change his facial features.
2. Dromedan. A Mutate created "when the Deviant Empire was at its height" who was imprisoned in a crypt in a mountain peak in what is now Peru when the Deviants came to fear that he would be a threat to them as well as the foes he had been bred to destroy, the Eternals.
3. Zakka, the Tool-Master. A Deviant scientist who was "a sinister force...in the days of Deviant ascendancy!"
4. Tutinax, known as the Mountain-Mover. This "most physically powerful of all the Deviants' Mutates" was also entombed by his fearful creators sometime before the arrival of the Third Host. However, although he was described as being "from the distant past...a century in ancient Deviant history," it seems likely that he was actually not created before the Great Cataclysm.
5. The Bandrhude. This giant Mutate was a mind-siren and the fact that "the Deviant science for creating such monstrosities perished with the fall of Old Lemuria" indicates that he must have been created before 18000 BC.
6. Spore. A weapon created by the Deviants to be used against the Eternals, Spore went rogue and began consuming Deviants as well as Eternals and humans. The fact that a Celestial was present to stop its rampage probably means that Spore was active at the time of the Second Host but it's not impossible that the Celestial who stopped him was actually a member of the Third Host, which would indicate a far more recent origin.
7. Taras Vol. A telepathic scientist who used three male Neanderthals to test his technique for slowing the aging process. The fact that he was a technology-user from an island called "Lemuria" that sank beneath the ocean after being struck by a gigantic earthquake should mean that he was a Deviant who died in the Great Cataclysm but there are problems with that idea. For one thing, one of the test subjects, Old Man Cole, claims that he was born "some thirty-thousand years ago" and, since there was no indication that he possessed extraordinary longevity before Vol's experiments, that would mean that Vol's Lemuria sank ten thousand years before the Great Cataclysm. Additionally, although Deviants supposedly all look different from each other, Taras Vol and his colleagues all looked liked grey-skinned humans with pointed ears. Is it possible that these Lemurians were non-Deviants who came from a Lemuria that predated the continent destroyed in the Great Cataclysm?
Profile by Donald Campbell.
Phraug has no known connections to:
A warrior in the service of Emperor Phraug of Lemuria, this as-yet-unidentified Deviant had green skin and only three fingers (and a thumb) on each of his hands. His (or her) face was also somewhat non-human in appearance. He was clad in orange armor and equipped with two weapons: a golden sword that hung from his belt and a staff with blades at either end.
One day, this warrior went to the dwelling of the human alchemist Atra. After being allowed to enter, the guard confronted Atra and his daughter Antilia and delivered the following message:
"I give you warning, Atra! We Deviants know you are working on a powerful new weapon! Unless you turn it over to the palace before nightfall, we shall find it and take it by force!"
Atra responded by stating that he would see "our mighty emperor" within the hour, then dismissed his visitor, saying, "Good day to you, Deviant."
The Deviant then left Atra's dwelling, thereby allowing the alchemist the time he needed to empower his secret weapon (by sacrificing his daughter). When the worldwide disaster known as the Great Cataclysm occurred soon afterwards and Lemuria sank beneath the raging seas, this Deviant probably perished, along with most of his race, amidst the earthquakes and floods.
Or maybe he survived, lived a long life and had many children. Who knows?
Note: One thing I've wondered about this Deviant is why he delivered that warning to Atra. At first, his motive appears to be just as he says: He is there as a representative of Deviants who have somehow learned what Atra has been doing and want the weapon for their emperor. However, the later revelation that Atra was unwittingly being used by Phraug and Set adds some uncertainty. After all, if Phraug knew what Atra was doing all along, then why would he send the guard to "warn" Atra?
As I see it, there are two possible explanations. The first is that, although Phraug was the only Deviant who knew exactly what Atra was doing and who it was going to ultimately benefit, there were other Deviants in the imperial court who had learned that Atra was secretly working on a new weapon and it was those other Deviants who sent the guard with his ultimatum. In other words, the left Deviant hand didn't know what the right Deviant hand was doing.
The second possibility is that Phraug either knew that other Deviants had learned about Atra's weapon and he allowed them to send that warning or it was actually Phraug himself who sent the guard to Atra. As to why Phraug might allow (or cause) this to happen, perhaps he felt that Atra needed some motivation to do what he had to do in order for Set to grant the Serpent Crown its power. Maybe Atra was being a bit hesitant about killing his own daughter in a blood sacrifice and this warning was meant to provoke him into finally getting the job done?
Both explanations seem plausible but I prefer the second one because it fits with how Phraug was already manipulating Atra.
--Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23/7 (fb)
One of the enslaved human population of Lemuria, this bald male slave served in Emperor Phraug's palace in Lemuria. His name has never been revealed.
One day, a massive alien starship descended from space and began hovering in the air above the capital city of the Deviant Empire. The emperor's scientists studied it and quickly sent the slave to Emperor Phraug to report their findings.
Arriving in the imperial throne room, the slave delivered the message to the emperor, saying, "It is true, Sire. Even now the ship hovers above our city. Your scientists believe it is the vessel of the Celestials, the Space Gods!"
Emperor Phraug concurred with that belief and mused aloud about how their long-missing creators were no doubt expecting the Deviants to bow down in gratitude for their return. Phraug then stated that he had another god and gave the order that the Celestials should be shot down! However, before the slave could relay that order, Atra suddenly appeared out of nowhere, wearing the Serpent Crown, and Phraug told the slave that he could leave because "it seems the great Atra has come to pay us a call!"
The fact that the slave was not seen after Phraug told him to leave suggests that he obeyed his master and left the throne room before Atra attacked Phraug. Further, the fact that the Deviants then opened fire on the Celestial starship could mean that the slave did bring Phraug's order to whoever controlled the city's weapons. Or maybe he didn't deliver that message and the Deviants began firing on the Celestials on their own initiative, even without Phraug's order?
This slave probably perished soon afterwards, along with most of the other enslaved humans on Lemuria, when the continent sank beneath the raging seas after the Celestial counter-attack rocked the entire planet and triggered the Great Cataclysm. Or maybe he was a good swimmer and a certain large wooden vessel carrying a cargo of humans and wildlife was nearby?
I did briefly wonder why the Deviants used slaves to carry messages instead of having some sort of intercom system set up to do the same job but I concluded that the Deviants probably just really liked being able to order their slaves around and otherwise dominate them.
--Amazing Spider-Man Annual#23/7 (fb)
images: (without ads)
Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#27, page 54, panel 1 (main image)
page 54, panel 2 (head shot)
page 54, panel 6 (surviving Atra's attack)
page 54, panel 7 (explaining how he survived)
page 55, panel 2 (wrestling with Atra over the crown)
page 56, panel 4 (dead with Atra in the ruins of Lemuria)
Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9, page 56, panel 2 (skeletal hands still grasping the Serpent Crown)
page 56, panel 5 (skeletal hands falling away)
Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#27, page 52, panel 1 (Deviant who warned Atra)
page 54, panel 1 (human slave with Phraug)
Amazing Spider-Man Annual I#23/7 (1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Spectacular Spider-Man Annual#9/5 (1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Bob Lewis (inker), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe III#5: Naga entry (November, 1989) - Peter Sanderson (writer/researcher), Terry Kavanagh (editor), Mark Gruenwald (executive editor)
First Posted: 05/16/2020
Last updated: 05/17/2020
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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