by Bevan Thomas
A return to a world inhabited by unfamiliar superbeings with very familiar names. Last time we met the Human Torch, greatest hero of Universe-M. Now we encounter Nox, the Dweller in Darkness, the Torch’s arch-nemesis.
Every great hero needs a great nemesis, and as I made the Human Torch an optimistic light-based heroine, it seemed reasonable to make her enemy tied with despair and darkness. The more I developed the Human Torch, the more she became a tragic figure, a person able to save everyone except her own family, who were taken into Auschwitz. It would increase that level of tragedy if the Torch’s enemy claimed to be one of her family, someone who the Torch had failed to save. So now I had the central premises of the villain, and needed some names to go with it. Nox is the Greek goddess of the night, and she showed-up a couple of times in Marvel, and there was also an individual called the Dweller in Darkness, a shadowy being with an octopus head who fought Dr. Strange. Calling my villain “Nox, the Dweller in Darkness,” seemed to tell the story well enough. I’d given Human Torch the real name “Katherine Pryde,” as I wanted to use a Jewish character’s name, and so I checked my trusty friend the Internet to see what relatives of Marvel’s Kitty Pryde had been named. Her mother’s name was Theresa, so “Theresa Pryde” became the alleged real name of Nox, though in this case the twin sister, not the mother.
Nox, the Dweller in Darkness
Real Name: At different times, she has claimed to be Katherine Pryde, twin sister Theresa Pryde, or the demon Lilith.
Of all the “master men”recruited by the Nazis during World War II, perhaps none became as feared as Nox, the Dweller in Darkness, mistress of shadows. At first she appeared as a mysterious assassin, striking from the darkness to murder various individuals singled-out by her Nazi commanders. An attempt on the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought Nox in conflict with the Human Torch, and began a long feud between the two.
Eventually Nox captured the Human Torch and revealed her awareness of the Torch’s secret identity as Jewish immigrant Katherine Pryde. Then Nox claimed that she herself was Theresa, Katherine’s twin sister who had been taken to Auschwitz along with the rest of Katherine’s family who were still in Germany. Nox claimed that the Pryde family had been turned over to Nazi scientists who had experimented on them as part of the infamous Master Man project. All the rest of the Prydes had died horribly, but Theresa had bonded with a magic black crystal known as the Darkstar, that had granted her power over all forms of darkness, turning her into Nox. The Darkstar had also filled Theresa with rage over the Human Torch failing to rescue her or her family and thus causing her to seek vengeance against her twin sister.
The Human Torch escaped, though Nox’s words haunted her. The Torch has not found any other evidence of Theresa, and it is possible that Nox is her lost twin sister. However, at certain times, Nox has instead claimed to be the manifestation of Katherine Pryde’s dark side, her repressed self-loathing and rage somehow given life by Nazi science, and sometimes Nox has even claimed to be Lilith, the Jewish demon who rules the night. The Torch isn’t sure what to believe, but knows one thing for certain: Nox hates her and wants her dead, after first seeing her suffer horribly.
Nox vanished after World War II around the same time as the Human Torch did, and returned to the public view the same time the Torch did as well. Whatever her true nature, Nox is haunted by depression and self-loathing, someone who would be worthy of pity if she wasn’t so murderous. Utterly insane, she is motivated by two things: a desire to snuff out the hope and joy in bothers and to gain revenge against the Human Torch.
She is the mistress of darkness and shadow, with total mastery over it in all its forms. Nox can control shadows and cause them to change shape and grow, and more dramatically, she can produce a strange “uber-darkness” that actually extinguishes light and heat, chilling any being it passes over and making them unable to see anything. Nox can surround herself with a shadow aura to protect her from harm and the darkness can be made solid enough to affect other objects in numerous ways, such as superstrong tentacles that can entrap, crush, or suffocate her enemies. Naturally, Nox is not harmed by her own shadows, and as she can see perfectly in any darkness, her shadows do not impair her in any way.
Nox can also transform herself into either a regular shadow (allowing her to be almost invisible and untouchable) or a “solid shadow” that increases her strength and power, and allows her total control over her body’s shape, such as the ability to stretch long distances. She can even use shadows as portals, stepping through one shadow and coming out through another shadow in another part of the world. She can drag other people through these portals, which is not a pleasant experience for them.
As dangerous as her shadows are physically, they perhaps are even more so mentally. When people are surrounded by Nox’s uber-darkness or touched by her solid shadows, they feel chilled and often anxious. Prolonged contact can increase this anxiousness to fear, depression, and even paranoia. After an hour (or shorter for more nervous individuals), they start to hallucinate, seeing their greatest fears manifest before them. If the person is trapped for too long, they could be driven insane or become suicidal. Nox often enjoys blanketing the whole area in darkness, forcing her opponents to wander around, unable to see, while their panic increases.
In addition to her shadow powers, Nox is also able to fly and to change her appearance to look like any humanoid, either male or female. No matter what form she takes, her hair is always black, as are her eyes (so she often wears sunglasses to hide them).
Nox’s shadows are vulnerable to light. Though she can extinguish regular lights, a particular bright presence (such as a laser or high intensity spotlight) could overcome her. Bright light can also cause her physical pain, but it has to be really bright light. Regular sunlight is too diffuse to hurt her, though Nox does find it distasteful.
Her shadows are the opposite of the Human Torch’s light and they often are evenly matched, so that neither can overcome the other. Both their powers are powered by their willpower, so if one of the two women’s concentrate weakens, the other other will triumph.