Real Name: Ethan Stoddard
Identity/Class: Human variant (Hidden race);
possibly hybrid human Elderspawn (see comments for Serpent Men of Starkesboro)
Occupation: Former student
Group Membership: Serpent Men of Starkesboro
Affiliations: Bethel Doan (at least former fiancee), Ebora, Lemuel Joad, N'Gabthoth, Set, Shuma-Gorath, Sligguth;
formerly Dr. Stephen Strange
Enemies: Dr. Stephen Strange;
presumably Ancient One (Yao), Clea, Johnny Frames, Wong
Known Relatives: Unidentified father and mother
Aliases: "Mr. High 'n' Mighty Stoddard" (from Lemuel Joad)
Base of Operations: Apparently the dark hills outside Starkesboro, Massachusetts;
formerly a "rooming house" in Manhattan, New York;
formerly Salem State College (presumably Massachusetts, see comments)
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere#4 (September, 1972)
Powers/Abilities: Ethan had unspecified education and knowledge from his university training.
As one of the "serpent men of Starkesboro," he had subtle reptilian features, including scales on his skin and a green palor (and perhaps narrowed/vertical pupils). Whether he was poikilothermic (cold-blooded) or had any other reptilian features is unrevealed. He was influenced to do the will of Sligguth.
Height: Unrevealed (he seemed comparable to the 6'2"-ish Dr. Strange, so perhaps 6' - 6'2")
Weight: Unrevealed (perhaps 180 - 200 lbs.)
Eyes: Unrevealed (not clearly shown)
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) - Ethan Stoddard originated in the town of Starkesboro, Massachusetts, founded circa 1670 A.D. by an obscure religious sect who emigrated from England to escape religious persecution. Possibly a result of interbreeding of the Serpent Men (offspring of Sligguth, son of the Elder God Set) or perhaps just falling under the influence of Sligguth after recovering Sligguth's inverted cross from the Ocean's depths. Regardless, the people of Starkesboro remained insular, and they developed reptilian features that progressed with age.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) - Ethan Stoddard and his fiancee, Bethel Doan, left Starkesboro and went to Salem State College, and later to New York City for graduate studies.
(Marvel Premiere#4 - BTS) - Ethan had a "rooming house" in Manhattan. It is not specified, but it seemed that he and Bethel had separate homes, which would fit for an unmarried couple from a conservative town in the early 1970's.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) - Beth's thesis was on the occult arts in America, and some of her work touched on Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Stephen Strange, and his work.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) - In retrospect, Ethan considered that that was when things had started to go...wrong.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) <2 months before the main story> - Bethel decided to return to Starkesboro to continue her research at the local library, which had a lot of books other places did not, such as the Thanatosian Tomes.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb)) - As Bethel left, she assured Ethan that she would only be gone for a few weeks, but he told her that he had never liked their hometown, as so few had seemed to escape it, and that he had thought they had accomplished this. He further told her that he had a strange feeling about it, and he told her repeatedly not to be long. She assured him that she would not, and she promised to write every day.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) - Beth's letters to Ethan began to half-coherently discuss dark gods and forbidden cults.
(Marvel Premiere#4 (fb) - BTS) <3 weeks before the main story> - Bethel's abruptly stopped writing letters to Ethan, and his letters were returned unopened. Ethan was certain that they were in love, and that this cessation of contact was related to something from her research.
(Marvel Premiere#4) - Ethan Stoddard came to Dr. Strange for some sort of assistance, expecting perhaps advice and reassurance that he wasn't mad in his thinking, and he managed to enter his Sanctum unaided while an exhausted Wong slept. Stoddard shared his concerns about Bethel, and Strange used the Eye of Agamotto to ascertain that Ethan's mind harbored no evil or disguised some nefarious plot. During this scan, Ethan fell asleep, and Strange -- considering that Ethan needed rest and aware of an undiscovered underlying threat against himself and the whole world -- let Ethan sleep while he prepared for the journey.
When Ethan awakened, Strange told him that they were going to Starkesboro. After stopping at Ethan's rooming house where he packed a valise for the trip, the two proceeded to the Port Authority terminal where they took an interstate bus bound for Boston and beyond. Ethan noted his appreciation for Strange doing all of this for a stranger, but Dr. Strange assured him that no fellow man in need of help was a stranger and that he was concerned that an evil such as had touched his fiancee might well also reach out to the world. During a brief lunch break, Ethan told Strange of some of Starkesboro's history.
They arrived in Starkesboro in the during a thunderstorm at night, and the bus driver urged their departure, after which Ethan noted how is hometown now felt like an alien planet, so desolate and so quiet. Strange was surprised by the sound of church bells on a Saturday night, and he noted that Starkesboro was odd indeed.
Ethan led Strange to the town's best (and only) hotel, and the manager (and possibly the owner) was surprised, as they didn't get many visitors. Strange asked about Bethel, and the owner told him that he knew of Doans in town, but that he couldn't place the name of Bethel. After ordering a pair of rooms, Strange and Stoddard went silently to their rooms under the taciturn clerk's gaze.
(Marvel Premiere#4 - BTS) - From his room, Strange observed the Starkesboro church, and he considered the similar odd cast of features -- something about the eyes and the slope of the forehead -- to all who were departing.
(Marvel Premiere#4) - Meanwhile, Ethan stared at the crowd below and wondered whether Bethel was among them.
(Marvel Premiere#4 - BTS) - As midnight struck, Strange released his astral form for a pre-arranged communion with this mentor, the Ancient One, and he found that he had to focus his power to force his way past something that seemed to restrain his ectoplasmic form. Communing with the Ancient One on the Astral Plane, Strange learned of vague evil portents from events originating before man walked the Earth, as detailed in the Thanatosian Tomes, the Black Sea Scrolls, and von Juntz's Unausprechlichenkulten, of a slumbering cosmic obscenity...and of cults and long lost races. The Ancient One then departed to face some of the forces behind this and sent Strange to face those in Starkesboro.
(Marvel Premiere#4) - The next morning, Strange and Ethan headed to the town library, and en route, they ecountered Lemuel Joad when Ethan asked him to confirm if the town library was still in its previous occasion. Ethan was shocked at how Lemuel's appearance had changed, but Lemuel replied to "Mr. High 'n' Mighty Stoddard," noting that his father didn' have the airs to marry outside Starkesboro, nor had he ever left kith and kin for the city: "So, if I got the look of Starkesboro man, it's cause I am..and proud of it." Confirming that the library was where it always was, next to the church, Lemuel bade Ethan, "Good day to ye!"
Ethan then informed Strange that he had forgotten how the "Starkesboro look" got worse with age, and Strange replied how he had glimpsed the look the night before, although not so clearly.
Strange then headed to the church while Ethan went into the library.
(Marvel Premiere#4 - BTS) - In the church, Strange discovered a sacrificial altar and the mark of Sligguth.
(Marvel Premiere#4) - Ethan questioned the librarian about Bethel's whereabouts, first being ignored before receiving an invitation to leave town with the outsider he had brought in. Ignoring this, Ethan entered the library and found Bethel. Although she heard him calling her, Beth remained silent initially, after which she also advised him to depart with his outsider friend. When Ethan forced a confrontation with Beth, he was shocked to see how she had taken on the "Starkesboro look" as well.
As Ethan panicked and fled, Beth told him that she had hoped he wouldn't see her like this.
(Marvel Premiere#4 - BTS) - Bethel discussed with the librarian her worries about how badly Ethan was taking it, but the librarian assured her how all was going as it should, which was all that was important.
(Marvel Premiere#4) - Ethan than rushed into the church, his calls stopping Strange from entering the labyrinth leading to Sligguth's lair. After Ethan questioned how the townspeople could have done this to Beth, Strange asked Ethan if had ever been to this church and looked on its altar, and Ethan -- not having been there since he was a kid -- now appreciated that it was a place of sacrifice, after which Strange detailed the nature of Sligguth and the "Serpent Breed."
As the people of Starkesboro surrounded the church, chanting for Ethan to come out, Strange slammed the doors, assuring Ethan that the doors were strong and that the spawn of Sligguth would not be quick to desecrate his shrine. Nonetheless, Ethan urged Strange to use his powers to save them, and Strange explained how his powers were drained by the town's evil aura.
The continued chanting eventually brought Ethan under the influence of Sligguth. As Ethan attacked him, Strange tried to help him resist the Serpent People's will, but Ethan argued that -- even when it was impure as it was in him -- Starkesboro blood must tell! Ethan further advised Strange that his powers weren't being merely weakened but that they were being drained.
Strange used his Cloak of Levitation to escape Ethan, but the people of Starkesboro considered that Strange's resistance was greater than by expected, and so they joined their hands and concentrated on the church door. As the door broke down, Ethan mocked Strange's escape attempts as akin to a swallow desperately trying to escape a barn. Ultimately, the exhausted Strange crashed to the ground as the serpentine townspeople broke through the door. Bethel reunited with Ethan, noting that he was now truly one of them, and he confirmed this, noting that they belonged together and that nothing would separate them. Bethel noted, "nothing but one final deed that must be done," and after Ethan hissed, "Yessss...!" Ethan and the rest of the townspeople joined hands, and Strange collapsed under their combined power.
Strange awakened, chained to the altar, and one of the townspeople noted how they had been charged to prevent Strange from interfering with the waking of the "Great One who Slumbers." Proclaiming victory, the man ordered the others to throw wide the door to the labyrinth.
(Marvel Premiere#5 - BTS) - As Strange struggled futilely against his chains, the townspeople chanted in an ancient language and in ever more deep and reptilian voices as Sligguth and his priestess, Ebora, arrived.
Remotely/apparently aided by the Ancient One, Strange broke free from his chains and via multiple spells invoking various mystic principalities drove off Sligguth.
Ebora then urged the "Spawn of Sligguth" to assault Strange (who was weakened from his struggle with Sligguth) and they swarmed over and battered him. Calling on the Vapors of Valtorr, Strange pained and drove off his attackers, after which he headed down the tunnel in pursuit of Sligguth.
(Marvel Premiere#5 - BTS) - Meanwhile, the Ancient One was carried off by the Shadowmen of sunken Kaa-U apparently under the direction of the Living Buddha, preventing him from further aiding Strange at that time. Additionally, sensing the danger to Strange and the Ancient One, Clea traveled to Dr. Strange's sanctum, restored the shattered Orb of Agamotto, confirmed the nature of the threats to her allies, and then led Wong to join her in traveling to Starkesboro.
After the Vishanti suspended the town's evil aura, Strange drove Sligguth from his lair.
(Marvel Premiere#6 - BTS) - Strange apparently slew Sligguth, which awakened N'Gabthoth, the Shambler from the Sea, who headed to the surface.
Arriving in Starkesboro, Clea and Wong encountered Johnny Frames, but all three were captured by townspeople under Ebora's influence and brought up the sacred cliff to N'Gabthoth's roost and then manacled them to the altar. Ebora then called to N'Gabthoth, who overpowered the weakened Strange when he arrived to rescue his allies. Strange virtually exhausted himself shattering the altar and free the captives, who engaged the serpentine townspeople. The Ancient One's astral self then merged with Strange, shielding him from the town's aura and allowing Strange to eventually destroy N'Gabthoth.
(Marvel Premiere#6 (fb) - BTS) - At some point after Strange's first driving off N'Gabthoth, and perhaps not until after Strange's apparently killing N'Gabthoth, the people of Starkesboro (including presumably Ethan and Bethel) fled back into the dark hills.
(Marvel Premiere#6) - With N'Gabthoth's death, Starkesboro's evil aura lessened, and Strange swiftly regained his strength.
Comments: Created by Archie Goodwin, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Frank Brunner.
After playing a major role in Marvel Premiere#4, Ethan Stoddard wasn't
seen or mentioned again in the rest of the arc. Archie
Goodwin & Roy Thomas wrote #4, and then Gardner F. Fox took over
for the rest of the arc, but Roy Thomas remained the editor throughout.
Somewhat oddly, in #6, Johnny Frames appeared with a very similar back-story about his fiancee, Deborah, having been drawn back into Starkesboro...an editorial note even referenced the similarities.
Where is Starkesboro?
I don't know about Salem State College, but in the real world, Salem State University is in Salem, Massachusetts. I'd ASSume Salem State College was in Salem, Massachusetts, but I don't think it was confirmed.
"Fled back into the hills"...so the Serpent Men of Starkesboro / Spawn of Sligguth live in the hills/wooded region outside of Starkesboro? Seems like there's more story to tell...
Ethan Stoddard originally had a sub-profile under the Serpent Men of Starkesboro, 02/15/2022, almost 20 years before this profile
Profile by Snood.
Ethan Stoddard should be distinguished from:
Marvel Premiere#4 (September, 1972) - Archie Goodwin & Roy Thomas (writers), Barry Windsor-Smith (pencils), Frank Brunner (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Marvel Premiere#5 (November, 1972) - Gardner F. Fox (writer), Irv Wesley (pencils), Don Perlin (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Marvel Premiere#6 (January, 1973) - Gardner F. Fox (writer), Frank Brunner (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
First posted: 01/30/2022
Last updated: 02/01/2022
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 www.g-mart.com for hosting the Appendix, Master List, etc.!
Back to Characters