With actress Serinda Swan having been cast as Medusa in the upcoming “Inhumans” television series, this is a great time to examine the comic book history of the current leader of the Inhumans. Actually, she’s the very first Inhuman to ever appear in a comic book — the queen of the Inhumans, Medusa!
As we mentioned, Medusa took her first comic book bows almost a year before her Inhumans brethren (it’s actually unlikely that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had even conceived of the Inhumans at that point) when she was recruited in “Fantastic Four” #36 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Chic Stone), under the name Madame Medusa, as the final member of the Wizard’s evil answer to the Fantastic Four, the Frightful Four (with Paste-Pot Pete and Sandman being the other two members of the group).
The Frightful Four quickly became the Fantastic Four’s second-greatest enemies after Doctor Doom, as they faced off against the FF a remarkable five times between “Fantastic Four” #36 and “Fantastic Four” #43. This incarnation of the Frightful Four was also one of the most successful versions of the group, as Madame Medusa proved a very capable villain. Then, everything changed in “Fantastic Four” #44 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott) when Gorgon showed up searching for his cousin.
It turned out that Medusa was part of a secretive race of super-beings known as the Inhumans and her whole time as a supervillain was simply the result of some poorly timed amnesia (and a persuasive Wizard). Medusa was the object of obsession by the then-ruler of the Inhumans, Maximus the Mad, who was the brother of Medusa’s true love, Black Bolt, who soon regained his status as the ruler of the Inhumans, with Medusa by his side (Medusa’s “real” name, by the way, is not quite as awesome as Blackagar Boltagon, but it is still pretty cool. It’s Medusalith Amaquelin).
Medusa did not have a whole lot to do for the next few years, as she appeared frequently with the rest of the Inhumans, but she did not have a particularly significant role in any of the Inhumans storylines in “Fantastic Four” or “Amazing Adventures.” That changed when she was kidnapped by a newly-reformed Frightful Four. When the Fantastic Four saved her, she was there when Sue Richards and Reed Richards temporarily split from each other, with Sue leaving to take care of their son, Franklin, who was dealing with some health issues. In “Fantastic Four” #132 (by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott), Medusa (who now realized that the pollution of the outside world that had given her amnesia back in the day no longer had a negative effect on her when she was captured by the Frightful Four) joined the Fantastic Four in the place of the Invisible Girl.
She was not only helping the Fantastic Four by filling in, but she helped to serve as a public face of the Inhumans, who were still isolationists, but at least wanted to let the world know that they existed and were not threats. And what better way to do that but have one of their members publicly serve as a member of the world’s most popular superhero team (Medusa’s sister, Crystal, had been a member of the Fantastic Four, as well, when Sue Richards was pregnant with Franklin Richards, but Crystal’s Inhuman heritage was not exactly broadcasted). She filled in with distinction. When Sue returned, Medusa went back to the Inhumans.
A fascinating aspect of Medusa and Black Bolt’s relationship is the fact that they didn’t actually get married until 1984! They had basically been acting as though they were married for years and most comic books treated them as though they were effectively married, but they actually didn’t get married until “Fantastic Four Annual” #18 (by John Byrne, Mark Gruenwald, M.D. Bright and Mike Gustovich), shortly after Attilan moved to the moon.
It was here that Medusa’s treatment in the comics changed fairly dramatically (besides giving birth to a son, Ahura – a pregnancy that the Genetics Counsel of the Inhumans almost insisted that she terminate for fear that her son become like his uncle Maximus), as now that she was the official queen of the Inhumans, she began to be depicted as a good deal more regal. Not only regal, but her status as a diplomat became a major aspect of her character. After all, she was now the official translator for her husband, so her interpretations of his various rulings made her the visible source of political power in Attilan.
When her husband was seemingly killed during the “War of Kings,” Medusa took over as the ruler of the Inhumans. She also took over Black Bolt’s place in the Illuminati, showing an impressive sense of pragmatism in responding to the whole “oh yeah, this is one of those many secrets my husband kept from me” situation she was suddenly placed in.
After Black Bolt returned from the “dead,” he then drastically changed the status quo for the Inhumans (all without consulting with his wife, of course) by creating and detonating a Terrigen Bomb during the “Infinity” crossover that sent Terrigen mist all over the world, which suddenly transformed a multitude of people who did not know that they were Inhumans into Inhumans. Medusa was now in charge of one of the most powerful and feared groups on the planet. The situation ultimately led to their relationship breaking up, as Medusa was fed up with Black Bolt constantly going lone wolf on such major issues.
A major side effect of the Terrigen Mists was that they had deadly effects on the mutants of the world, which put the Inhumans into a difficult situation with regards to the X-Men. Medusa enlisted the help of the Beast to try to cure the problem. Around this same time, Medusa also ended up getting involved with her sister’s former boyfriend, Human Torch of the Fantastic Four, as he helped her relax in her now terribly stressful position of power. Johnny essentially joined the Inhumans.
Recently, the cold war between the X-Men and Inhumans has turned hot and Medusa and her people are battling with the X-Men as they each struggle with their place on Earth with each other.
These recent years with Medusa becoming the ruler of the Inhumans has opened up new depths to her character that look like they might server her very well in the upcoming TV adaptation. At the very least, it will be fascinating to see how her communication with her husband is handled on the show (if she and Black Bolt are even married on the show, that is).
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