Before the Midnight Sons assembled, Marvel brought together its other supernatural heroes as the forgotten Legion of the Night superhero team.
The Marvel Universe is governed predominantly by science, with the origins of many of its heroes and villains lying in the physical world. But thanks to characters like Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange, there is a darker side to the Marvel Universe too, one defined by magic, spirits and incorporeal evil. To deal with threats that cannot be stopped by sheer strength alone, Marvel’s supernatural heroes have assembled in a few configurations, including the mostly forgotten team, the Legion of Night.
Created by Steve Gerber and Whilce Portacio in 1991, the Legion of Night was a collective of supernatural characters all brought together to combat the forces of dark mysticism. The Legion of Night consisted of new characters and existing supporting players like Ariann Wight, Dr. Chan Liuchow, Dr. Katherine Reynolds, Martin Gold, Jennifer Kale and Charles Blackwater. The origins of its members stretch far back into the annals of Marvel’s history, dipping into its early horror and fantasy comics. Dr. Chan Liuchow had been created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961’s Strange Tales #89, where he was the first person to discover and battle the massive dragon monster Fin Fang Foom. Katherine Reynolds had been introduced in 1973’s Marvel Spotlight #14 co-starring alongside Daimon Helstrom. Martin Gold made his first appearance in 1974’s Vampire Tales #6. Longtime Marvel sorceress Jennifer Kale made her debut in 1972’s Adventure Into Fear #11, which was also Steve Gerber’s very first story written for Marvel.
The story begins with Dr. Katherine Reynolds prophesying the death of Charles Blackwater. A mysterious group known only as the Agency has kidnapped her and bound her in a hospital, forcibly injecting her with various drugs. Next, Jennifer Kale is seen standing with her boyfriend in Malibu, California when she, too, witnesses a vision of Blackwater’s death. Then, Martin Gold, working in his bookstore, attempts to contact Blackwater via phone call only to have him hang up on him as this mystery ensnares each of these characters.
The two-issue Legion of Night series is a whirlwind of dark rituals, spirit summoning and dream visions that was uncommonly violent for its time. Charles Blackwater is murdered by a religious sect that he had been investigating known as The Beyond Reason Spiritual Fellowship. The religious order was attempting to resurrect their god, Aan Tanu, by using the body of Fin Fang Foom as its earthly vessel. The extraplanar entity known as Omen possesses Charles Blackwater’s body and reanimates it, moving it to summon the remaining characters together. Upon meeting, Omen transports all of them into Aan Tanu’s waking dream world, a place of horror and rage.
The story comes to a wild and violent climax as a member of the Fellowship, a woman named Hildreth, willingly decides to mate with Aan Tanu and have his child. Before the unholy spawn can be loosed upon the world, Ariann tears the unborn baby from Hildreth’s body. With Aan Tanu’s return prevented and Fin Fang Foom defeated, the Legion of Night settle into the realization that they now exist as the defenders of the world from other such threats.
Despite that set-up, the Legion of Night was an ill-fated team as Marvel showed no interest in revisiting it or its characters. Shortly after the team’s debut, Danny Ketch’s Ghost Rider burst onto the scene and became one of the surprise hits of the early 1990s, single-handedly reviving and reframing the supernatural corner of the Marvel Universe. Where the Legion of Night had a dense plot, moderately shocking demonic imagery and an obscure cast of characters, Ghost Rider and the Midnight Sons were built around action more distinctive characters like Blade and Morbius.
Despite their short lifespan, the potential for a team like the Legion of Night remains great; DC Comics has had success with similar characters such as Constantine, Justice League Dark, and Swamp Thing. With a bigger canvas to work with, the Legion of Night could easily do well today. With the upcoming Midnight Suns video game, there could always be the chance that the Legion of Night could make a comeback to help protect Earth from the evil beyond the veil.
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