With The Peregrine, most of his enemies were dead and buried by the end of each adventure, though he had a few (The Warlike Manchu, for instance) who made return appearances. When I created Lazarus Gray, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do with the series was to create a series of recurring villains. I wanted him to have a vibrant rogue’s gallery that could return again and again.
But which of his enemies stands above the rest? If our hero is defined by his villains, which of those foes is his dark mirror?
Obviously, Lazarus Gray has Walther Lunt, his former mentor. Lunt was a major force in Volumes One and Two but his death in 1936 (“Die Glocke”) has left him as a shadow looming over the series. He did return to battle Lazarus in a winner-returns-to-life battle but his defeat there has seemingly ended his threat forever.
And then there’s Nemesis, whose very name suggests that he should be Lazarus Gray’s arch-foe. He plays a key role in volumes 7-9.
Bur are either of them really Gray’s arch-enemy? Or should that honor go to the equally-deserving immortal known as Femi?
A beautiful Egyptian princess, Femi was involved with a cult known as The Undying. This group repudiated the Gods, believing that mankind was itself the highest form of life – they frequently shouted “God Is Dead!” as a way of displaying their blasphemous beliefs. In retribution, the priests of Egypt captured Femi and mummified her, using special magicks to keep her alive, in an eternal sleep.
In early 1935, she managed to make a psychic connection with a man who had bought her corpse, intending to display it in his house. The man used a powerful gem to revive Femi, who was reunited with the remains of The Undying. Femi was now able to control the undead but her power came with a price — she now had to feed on human flesh to remain young.The exact process that Femi uses to create her armies of mummified warriors is mystical in nature and bestows upon her followers great strength and durability. The tale of her resurrection and subsequent battle with Assistance Unlimited took place in “The Corpse Screams At Midnight!”
Her next appearance spanned late 1935 and early ’36, as Walther Lunt revived her to accompany him on his search for the Die Glocke.
Later in 1936, Femi was resurrected yet again by Constance Majestros, who formed Murder Unlimited in direct opposition to Assistance Unlimited. Femi and Constance were joined by Abraham Klee, Stanley Davis and Doc Pemberley. Femi and Pemberley became lovers at this point though the romance was a disturbing one for both parties. This time, Abigail Winters (a member of Assistance Unlimited) defeated Femi in single combat. She was placed in a locked room at 6196 Robeson Avenue, becoming a prisoner of Lazarus Gray. This adventure was detailed in “Murder Unlimited.”
At some unknown point, her body was stolen by the madman known as Dr. York, who attempted to revive her in Atlanta so that she might aid him against The Peregrine. This revival literally lasted only a few moments before she was put down once more and returned to the care of Assistance Unlimited (“The Peregrine Animated Script,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Three).
Unfortunately, she was freed a short time later (in the story “Eidolon”) and became involved in an attempt to revive an ancient devil. Working alongside a Nazi werewolf named Silverwolf, Femi ended up facing the mysterious vigilante known as Darkling. Darkling managed to destroy her once more.
In Volume Five, we saw that her remains were kept in an urn at Robeson Avenue (“The Felonious Financier”). In 1937, she gets revived just in time for a group of Egyptians who serve the ancient gods to come calling in hopes of destroying her once and for all. Femi gained a handmaiden named Madison Montgomery, a girlfriend of Morgan Watts who becomes enamored of Femi’s power. The duo found themselves briefly allied with The Three Sisters (Selene, Phoebe & Fiona), immortal witches that sought to control Sovereign City. At the end of this adventure, Femi and Madison escaped the clutches of Assistance Unlimited. Madison was now empowered by a small fraction of the same energy that preserved Femi, making them a deadly pair (“Immortals”).
In Volume Six (1938), Femi and Madison teamed with Paul Alfred Müller-Murnau, the leader of an American Nazi organization. His role as Nemesis helped lead them to the fabled Emerald Tablet and helped Femi transform The Undying into a public organization… a cult that plays upon America’s obsession with Egyptology to expand into positions of power. (“Nemesis,” Lazarus Gray Volume Six).
Volume Seven (set in 1939) saw Femi and Madison once again look to team up with a powerful villain in order to expand their own criminal empire. Teaming with El Demonio, the two women sought to revive the infamous King in Yellow… but Lazarus Gray and his allies were able to foil their plot. Madison was killed, leading to a furious Femi seeking to slay her enemies once and for all. Unfortunately for her, her revived form was destroyed by a powerful acid that left virtually nothing of her behind. (“Dread Carcosa,” Lazarus Gray Volume Seven)
While it’s unlikely that Madison Montgomery will be revived, Femi’s ability to cheat death has become legendary. In fact, she will once more menace the world in an upcoming novel that pairs many of my heroes with AC Comics’ Nightveil!
Our art today is courtesy of George Sellas.