Cotton Mather, Marvel Supervillian?

Cotton Mather Marvel Character Doing some last minute prep for class this evening I stumbled across an interesting fact about the iconic early American minister Cotton Mather. Not only was he arguably one of the most important figures in shaping the regrettable Puritan legacy of the U.S. with works like the Magnalia Christi Americana, but he also had played a small, but crucial, role in the Marvel Team-Up comics series that ran from 1972 to 1985 (check out the wikipedia article for the amazing cast of characters this series featured).

Want some more details about this lesser known fact regarding the Fire and Brimstone patriarch par excellence? Below is the tale of the tape (original source found here):

Real Name: Cotton Mather Cotton Mather Marvel Character

Identity/Class: Human (magic user?), 17th Century

Occupation: Witch hunter, magic users seeker

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: The Dark Rider, the puritans of Salem

Enemies: John Burroughs, Dr. Doom (Victor Von Doom), Moondragon, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Vision, all the magic users in the world, all the servants of evil

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: The Great Inquisitor, Hatemonger, Servant of God, High Priest of God

Base of Operations: Salem, Massachusetts, USA

First Appearance: Marvel Team-Up I#41 (January, 1976)

Powers/Abilities: Mather powers’ origin are unknown (probably they were granted to him by the Dark Rider). Mather could sense and find magic beings, project his voice (or thoughts) at very long distances, control and command other’s will by touching them or hitting them with the fire shot from his wooden cross. Mather seemed stronger than a normal human. Mather used a wooden cross as weapon. The cross could shoot a “purifying” fire, not burning things, but strong enough to hurt Spider-Man and drive the Vision off. The fire also allowed him to control Scarlet Witch’s will.

I really love the way his character profile reads like something out of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: “Class -Human/Magic User; Special Powers -mind control, fire shooting wooden cross…” It is really quite fun to find a pop culture reference for one of the most feared and dreaded writers of colonial period. His work is much more exciting and dynamic than often assumed, and a little spilled Marvel ink never hurt to make that point!;) Tonight we discussed his work Pillars of Salt -a history of Crime in New England through sermons, confessions, discourses, and narratives from 1642 until 1698. Believe you me, there is some wild stuff happening in these narratives. If you are at all intrigued, be sure to read the very short and entertaining section of this crime anthology that deals with the punishment of recalcitrant bestiality in Puritan New England here (bottom of page 405 to top of 407 -thanks google books!). Nonetheless, it was really a nice change of pace to start the class off with an image of Cotton Mather portrayed as a Witch-hunting murderer who is trying his “damnedest” to finish off the Amazing Spiderman with the ever dreaded fire-breathing wooden cross!

Are we really still questioning the unbelievable resources the internet more generally, and web 2.0 services and applications more specifically, provide a curious teacher for approaching their subject matter from all sorts of exciting perspectives? I didn’t think so!

Spiderman and Cotton Mather

See full cover of this particular comic here.

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16 Responses to Cotton Mather, Marvel Supervillian?

  1. Gardner says:

    Great example of the world at our fingertips. Imagine a wireless classroom where a student could find this stuff during a class … it would be worth a lot of overhead to get to that moment, I think.

    This is also a great object lesson in how interesting stuff finds its life in people’s work whether or not it’s in a classroom. People like Cotton Mather are interesting whether or not school says so. (Though in this case, of course, it does.)

  2. Matt says:

    Dude — we need to combine the content of your last two or three posts and create a web-based comic strip in which Cotton Mather comes back from the dead in a Puritan zombie revolt against the excesses of our era. Foucault could show up to connect the historical dots. And it would turn out that the only way to defeat the zombies was to use Web 2.0 technologies to build new conceptual and categorical frameworks for understanding them.

    Then, we turn the whole thing into learning platform that can be used to teach students about early American literature and history.

  3. jimgroom says:

    Matt,

    THAT IS BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!

    I’m undead serious, let’s do this.

  4. I love this! I’m teaching Cotton Mather this week coming up and found your blog entry through the google “teaching Cotton Mather.” Thanks! This will be fun, and also, since I’m trying very hard to open up the idea of “What ‘is’ American Lit” it will be my first intro for them to unconventional genres… 🙂

    I do so love the fire-blasting cross.

  5. jimgroom says:

    Dr. Zombieswan

    With a handle like that, how could you not teach this! In fact, I actually did some hunting after I foud this gem and got the actual comic from 1976, and let me tell you, it is, in and of itself, quite teachable as a text. I was teaching criminal narratives and public executions, and there is a whole discussion of executions in regards to the Salem Witch Trials, really amazing. Glad you found this one useful.

  6. Angie says:

    This is so crazy, ive been researching my family history and come to find out im related to Cotton Mather! Then to find out hes a comic book character? Whoa. How many people can say that?

  7. jimgroom says:

    Angie,

    You have no idea how jealous I am right now. Look hard enough in your attic, and you might even find a fire-breathing cross! 🙂

  8. Mather says:

    I have known for a long time about Being related to Cotton Mather and the thing that is often missed is that his father Increase Mather was passive and allowed the Salaem Witch trials to occur but Cotton was the one who stepped in and put a stop to them. He was based out of Boston and when he found out about them he stopped them. That is often misrepresented in many history texts. He is often villified as the cause of the witch trials but that is exactly the opposite of what happened.

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  10. Jeff Mather says:

    Okay, “Mather,” I have heard this re-revisionist story from one of my relatives, but no one has ever cited the evidence for it. I’ve even had relatives say things like this: “While Cotton Mather hunted the witches, our branch of the family kept the witches in their barn to keep them from getting persecuted.” I haven’t been presented references to support that either.

    But we do have plenty of evidence that Cotton provided the expert testimony for how to identify and use “spectral evidence.” I dare say, the trials could have been over before they really got going if Cotton had said it was all B.S.

    BTW, since we’re wallowing in family lore, I’ll come clean and say that someone in the way-back of my family married the granddaughter of William Stoughton, the Salem witch trials judge. Those must have been great family reunions: “Grandpa Will and Great Uncle Cotton are finally going to tell how many stones it takes to get a witch to confess.” Gov. Bradford is thrown in the mix there, too. (Slightly more detail: http://jeffmatherphotography.com/dispatches/2007/09/the-english-in-america/ )

  11. Jeff Mather says:

    BTW, awesome comic and use as a pedagogical tool.

  12. Leslie M-B says:

    I can testify that, on Thanksgiving Day 2004, Jeff Mather and his wife took me to Salem, Massachusetts, where he earnestly asked, “Where can a man press a witch in this town?”

    (We also visited Boston, where–surprise, surprise!–the name “Mather” does not appear among those of other notables inscribed on just about every surface of the statehouse.)

  13. Jeff Mather says:

    I think I also said something like “How many witches do you have to press to get some frickin’ respect in the Commonwealth these days?” Thus, I answered my own question about why my family is never going to be publicly lionized.

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