A Deep Dive into Marvel’s Malevolent Mistress of Magic Morgan le Fay
Before wreaking havoc on ‘Marvel’s Runaways’, Morgan le Fay had a long history in Marvel Comics!
On the most recent episode of This Week in Marvel, Lorraine Cink took a closer look at a magical Marvel character who just made an appearance on the small screen. Morgan le Fay, one of the Marvel Universe’s most mystical Super Villains, got her start in the King Arthur-inspired BLACK KNIGHT, but has gone on to cause many mighty Marvel heroes a massive amount of trouble!
Here is Lorraine’s deep dive into Morgan le Fay!
Morgan le Fay is a badass Super Villain who only appears from time to time, because she lives in the past – literally. However, she still manages to be a major influence on heroes and villains in the future, like Doctor Doom and Spider-Woman. A half-fairy magic sorceress, sea-princess, and Renaissance Faire lover, this lady does it all. With tales rooted in classical storytelling, she is the same enchantress from the Arthurian legends, but with her own Marvel twist – not unlike Hercules or Thor. She oozes power and freedom and uses her feminine wiles to entrance men and take what she wants from them.
Also known as Morgana, Morgaine, and Vivian Morgan, Le Fay is an insanely magical person. She wears that green dress with the deep, deep V, has a skull belt like Mystique, and sports long, raven tresses. Her great enemies are generally Merlin, King Arthur, and Black Knight as well as Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman, and Iron Man. Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman both have ties to Wundagore Mountain, and Tony Stark has ties to well… we’ll get into that later.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
Morgan le Fay was introduced in 1955’s BLACK KNIGHT #1 by Stan Lee and Joe Maneely, appearing in the first five issues, seemingly as Modred’s love interest. She was later adjusted to be his aunt as she was in the classic legends. Modred is an evil character who famously wanted to kill King Arthur. Morgan le Fay aided him in this fight, however the meddling Black Knight continued to foil them both.
If you’re not familiar with the classic legend, don’t worry! In typical ‘90s fashion, NAMOR: THE SUB-MARINER #62 by Glenn Herdling (writer) and Geof Isherwood (art) gives us a very long, very detailed backstory. In “Beware the Tides of March,” we learn that Morgan was born to a sea-princess of Avalon named Igraine, who married a man who was part of the “Scared Clan” of which her father was High Priest.
A young magician Myraddin foretold a coming catastrophe, so the priest sent his daughter Igraine away and she brought her daughter Morgan with her. As predicted, the island was consumed by a volcano. The three made it all the way to the Isle of Britain where the young priest Myraddin became Merlin and arranged for Morgan’s mother to marry the Duke of Tin Islands who was a brute.
However, a young knight name Uther Pendragon slayed the Duke and took Igraine as his wife. Igraine went on to bear another son, King Authur of Camelot, giving Morgan a half-brother. Morgan grew up and went to Aran Island to study with Merlin. In return she promised to become his lover, but she instead used this ruse to try to destroy Camelot and her half-brother, King Arthur – so Merlin locked her in the dungeon. No problem for Morgan though – she continued to project her astral form into future timelines to try to escape her physical prison. In this particular story, Morgan inhabits the body of a scientist and fights Namor for Atlantis. During her time locked up, she also has an affair with future Super Villain Doctor Doom, who travels back to her time, eventually leading the two to aid in each other’s causes.
This is an important, common thread in Morgan le Fay’s stories. Often when she is in trouble, she astrally projects herself into other times and timelines, searching out forms that she can use to free her corporeal body in the past or searching for new bodies to take over in the future. Because of this, her continuity doesn’t always match up to the rest of Marvel continuity since it’s hard to know from which time period she is projecting herself. Think of her kind of like Kang the Conqueror, if you’re familiar with that time-traveling baddie.
When Morgan’s physical body finally dies, she just goes to the astral plane until she finds a new body to inhabit. We never know for sure which Morgan we are meeting. And if you kill her, she just comes right back from another part of her timeline. She’s both very killable and unkillable.
Morgan is reintroduced in 1978’s SPIDER-WOMAN #1-2 and #6 (all with art by Carmine Infantino and written by Dave Cockrum, except for issue #1 which was written by Marv Wolfman), her first appearance since the Black Knight comics in the ‘50s. She re-forges an evil version of the sword Excalibur (the one she tricked her brother into using) and puts it into the hands of nogoodnik Slapper Struthers, so that she can control him. Spider-Woman AKA Jessica Drew, who is chillin’ in London, stops his hijinx and Morgan with it.
Morgan later returns in issues #35-41, where she attempts to come back at a Renaissance Faire in Marin County, only to be foiled by Spider-Woman again.
Then, in 1984’s AVENGERS #240-241 by Roger Stern, Ann Nocenti (writers), and Al Milgrom (art), Morgan le Fay plots her revenge on Spider-Woman by locking her outside of her physical body in the astral plane. Morgan plots to use Jessica’s body to live once more. With help of the Avengers and Magnus – a friend of Spider-Woman and former student of Morgan who turned on her and separated her for the Darkhold – Jessica returns to her body (depowered for a time) and Morgan is beaten by the Avengers with the help of Magnus.
Morgan gets the Darkhold – a super evil magic book also known as the Book of Sins – in 1979’s AVENGERS #187, written by Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant and David Michelinie, art by John Byrne. She uses it to summon power from Chthon, the elder god, and then imprison him in Wundagore Mountain, where he would later take over Scarlet Witch’s body.
In 1988’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #22 by Tom DeFalco and David Michelinie (writers) and Mark Bagley (art), Magnus reveals that he stole the Darkhold from Morgan and locked it in a tower – which if you ever left you would die. Morgan kills him, but he uses astral projection that he learned from her to protect Wundagore Mountain, inhabiting the body of Spider-Woman’s father Jonathan Drew for a time.
Morgan has another encounter with Iron Man in 1986’s IRON MAN #209 by Dennis Mallonee (writer) and Rick Hoberg (art). Merlin casts a spell on Morgan that prevents her from leaving the castle. Stark attends a Renaissance Faire and runs into Jack Russell AKA Werewolf by Night and his sister Lissa, who has been taken over by Morgan le Fay. Together, Tony and Jack free Lissa from Morgan’s clutches, but mostly it’s just so fun to see Tony Stark in Ren Faire garb.
But lest we forget about that little affair between Doctor Doom and Morgan le Fay, let’s take a look at a pivotal moment in their relationship in 1981’s IRON MAN #150 by David Michelinie and Bob Layton (writers) and John Romita Jr. (art). Doom travels back to the time of Camelot to enlist Morgan le Fay to help rescue his mother from the bounds of Hell. She agrees on the condition that he help her kill her half-brother, King Arthur. The two agree to the deal, and Morgan raises him an undead army composed of soldiers slain by Arthur. In the end, Iron Man and King Arthur counter the villains by forming a partnership of their own. Finally, Iron Man and Doom make a truce long enough to return to their own time.
But back to Morgan and Doom – in 2008’s MIGHTY AVENGERS #9-11 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Mark Bagley and Marko Djurdevic (art), Morgan le Fay is shacking up with Doom and asks him to bring her a gift, anything from the future. In return, she teaches him how to build an army but, after being beaten by the Avengers, he doesn’t return. (The art in this one changes as Doom travels to different time periods.)
Morgan is not one to take broken promises lightly, so in 2009’s DARK AVENGERS #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Mike Deodato, Marko Djurdevic, and Gabriele Dell’otto, she seeks revenge on Doom for not returning to her. She almost kills him as a child, but decides she wants him to know why he died. The Dark Avengers are sent to help Doom, and Sentry rips off Morgan’s head, but she comes back again since she can always return from the past.
Doom and Iron Patriot go to the past and send Morgan all the way back to 1 million B.C. But that is hardly the end of Doom and Le Fay.
In 2014’s AVENGERS WORLD by Nick Spencer, Jonathan Hickman, and Stefano Caselli, Morgan is freed by her daughter Caroline Le Fay (whom she had with Doom) and she takes over the City of the Dead in Italy. Later, Caroline helps her mom again by waging war on the Fearless Defenders.
WEIRDWORLD, written by Sam Humphries with dreamy art by Mike Del Mundo, came out in 2015 and kicked off with the story of Earth Girl Becca, who was on her way to leave her mom’s ashes in Mexico when her plane crashes in Weirdworld. Becca gets her hands on the Wuxian seed and wants to get back to Earth with the help of new friends Goleta the Wizardslayer and Catbeast. They have to navigate the sociopolitical disaster brewing around them; Weirdworld may be on the brink of war.
Morgan le Fay is queen of Weirdworld and just wants the Seed to save her dying friend Elizabeth after working alongside her and another woman named Nakia to conquer Weirdworld. The whole story is an opportunity to give Morgan le Fay some depth and show that she is willing to do anything for the people she loves, even if that means hurting others.
In 2019’s MARVEL RISING, Morgan takes over lots of people, and even a gnarly river spirit, in modern day New York City, battling a group of young heroes including Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Inferno. (Right now, you can read about Morgan le Fay causing trouble for the kids in EXCALIBUR and attempting to aide Doctor Doom in their respective books.)
Morgan le Fay’s adventures are now on the small screen! Currently, you can see Morgan le Fay in live-action form in season three of Marvel’s Runaways, where she’s portrayed by Elizabeth Hurley.
If you’re just joining the fantastical fun of le Fay on Runaways, there’s a whole bunch of books to read when you’ve finished your binge-watch. One thing is for sure: Morgan le Fay may come and go, but she’s sure to turn up in some way – or some form – sooner or later!
To listen to the whole conversation about Morgan le Fay on This Week in Marvel, download the full episode below!
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