It Happened in Rutland
Following The Crossover That Wasn’t, the characters from the Marvel Universe and their fellow superheroes from the DC Universe came one step closer to meeting in an unofficial crossover event that found them in the same place at the same time, though they never actually crossed paths with each other. The time was Halloween and the place was Rutland, Vermont, which is known for its annual parade in honor of All-Hallows Eve.
Rutland and its Halloween Parade had already been featured in stories by both companies in previous years, but this time it was clear that a single story wove through issues of Justice League of America, Thor, and Amazing Adventures. The common thread is a sub-plot featuring four real-life comic book creators, writers Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, and Len Wein and colorist Glynis Wein, who travel to Rutland for the parade and get caught up in the paranormal events that ensue.
However, when studying the overall flow of time in the Marvel Universe, continuity-pioneer George Olshevsky realized that the Rutland Halloween story with the Defenders in Marvel Feature #2 must have happened simultaneously as well, adding yet another layer to the already complex storyline. Fortunately, all the overlapping stories can be blended seamlessly, which I have endeavored to do here.
Though unstated, the semi-crossover was made possible by a dimensional convergence -- in effect, the Rutland in the Marvel Universe fused with the Rutland in the DC Universe for a little over 24 hours. Direct dimensional counterparts -- such as the two sets of Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis, as well as Roy Thomas and his wife Jeanie and parade organizer Tom Fagan -- merged upon entering the zone of convergence. They would have shared memories of both the Avengers and the Justice League, and it would have seemed perfectly normal, for as long as the convergence lasted. When the convergence finally collapsed, reality righted itself and the people involved were none the wiser.
Here, then, is the full and complete story of the craziest Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade ever held:
On the evening of October 27th, on the outskirts of Rutland, Vermont, two boys are fishing in Otter Creek when they witness a large meteorite crash into the earth with a tremendous explosion. Curious, the boys approach the site of the impact and discover what appear to be large chunks of amber. However, when the shadowy figure of a man emerges from the smoldering rocks, the boys flee in a panic. The man is Loki, the Asgardian trickster, and he immediately sets into motion his latest scheme of revenge against his half-brother Thor.
Loki fires a bolt of eldritch energy from his hands into the sky. It arcs across the North American continent all the way to the west coast, where it revives the Absorbing Man, who has been trapped for about a year following a battle with the Hulk. Once free, the Absorbing Man is driven by voices in his head to make his way to New York City.
Loki, meanwhile, comes upon the remote home of the reclusive Tom Fagan, where he poses as a poor, lost traveler to take advantage of Tom’s good nature. Since Tom has stocked up on food and drinks for his coming Halloween party, he offers Loki a meal. Once inside the house, though, Loki ensorcells Tom and makes him his unwitting servant.
The Absorbing Man reaches New York by the evening of October 29th, where he challenges Thor to a fight. But, after knocking each other around the city streets for a little while, the Absorbing Man abandons the battle and is magically transported to Rutland, where the voices in his head drive him toward Tom Fagan’s house. There he meets Loki and learns of his plans to finally destroy Thor.
All day on October 30th, the Absorbing Man hides out in Tom Fagan’s barn while Loki outlines his plans. Then, when Tom’s out-of-town guests begin to arrive, Loki assumes the guise of the “lost traveler” once more. That evening, an eerie red glow is seen atop Bald Mountain, just northeast of town. Loki realizes the glow is the result of a ritual of black magic being performed on the mountain to open a portal to the dimension of the dread Dormammu, and factors it into his plans.
Meanwhile, on Bald Mountain, Dormammu’s cultists succeed in opening a portal through which they can communicate with the demonic entity and tell their dark lord that their plans are proceeding. Members of the cult are already in New York City to kidnap Dormammu’s enemy, Doctor Stephen Strange, for the ritual tomorrow that will enable Dormammu to conquer the earth.
However, the cult’s spells have an unintended side-effect due to the dimensional instability that occurs there every Halloween: the walls between this reality and a parallel world collapse, causing two different Rutlands to merge into one. The area of dimensional convergence covers a ten-mile radius around Bald Mountain.
In the Greenwich Village Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts sees a vision of Dormammu in the Orb of Agamotto and considers summoning his sometime allies, Prince Namor of Atlantis, a.k.a. the Sub-Mariner, and the incredible Hulk. However, the sorcerer is tricked by a false image of his mentor, the Ancient One, into sending his astral form high into the sky above the city. When he returns, he finds a spell has blocked access to his physical form, which is being kidnapped by several hooded figures. When his manservant Wong tries to intervene, he receives a savage beating. Strange’s body is loaded into a station wagon and driven north out of New York.
Luckily, Wong had been on the phone with his master’s estranged lover, Clea, when the attack occurred and she became worried when he did not come back on the line. Arriving at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Clea revives Wong and learns what has happened. Using the Orb of Agamotto, Clea manages to send a psychic summons to both Namor and the Hulk.
Back in Rutland, a couple from New York, Roy and Jeanie Thomas, arrives at Tom Fagan’s house to help him finish the float for tomorrow’s Halloween Parade. Roy mentions that they heard talk on the radio driving up about mysterious red lights atop Bald Mountain. Tom tells them some of the local legends about the mountain, which has long been a site of paranormal phenomena. Still subtly affected by Loki’s spell, Tom’s manner is unusually creepy.
About a half-hour before midnight, Tom invites Roy and Jeanie to another Halloween ritual that goes back many years, gathering at a particular crossroads on the edge of town to hear “Old Mistress Sarah” chant the names of those who are to die within 24 hours. Arriving at the site, they join the crowd in time to see the elderly woman appear as she does every year. As the nearby church bells toll midnight, Old Mistress Sarah surprises the crowd when she reads off the names of Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman, all members of the Justice League of America.
Around the same time, the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk arrive in Greenwich Village, where they are met by Clea and Wong, and they both agree to assist in the rescue of Doctor Strange. Clea hypnotizes the Hulk so that he will change back into Bruce Banner. They return to the Sanctum Sanctorum to try to determine where Strange has been taken.
Just before dawn on October 31st, Roy and Jeanie get their first look at Bald Mountain from Tom Fagan’s yard. Some of the other party-goers are already up and getting into their costumes. They then work together to put the finishing touches on the parade float.
An hour or so later, the station wagon bearing Doctor Strange’s body arrives in Rutland after driving all night. It pulls up to a ramshackle cabin at the foot of Bald Mountain, where they plan to wait until dusk before carrying the body up to the site of the ritual. After surrounding the body with black candles to keep the shielding spell potent, the cultists discuss their plans to enable Dormammu to possess the body of Doctor Strange so he can enter and conquer earth’s dimension. With devilish glee, they predict that Dormammu will cause Bald Mountain to erupt and bury Rutland in a lava flow. Having surreptitiously observed these events, Doctor Strange’s astral form then flashes back to New York and slips inside Wong’s body to better survive the prolonged separation from his physical form.
Later that morning, in the parallel universe, Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman assemble for a meeting aboard the Justice League’s orbiting satellite. They are startled to learn they were actually summoned by the enigmatic Phantom Stranger. Having encountered the Phantom Stranger previously, Batman vouches for him, and the rest of the team agrees to hear him out. He explains that the evil sorcerer Felix Faust plans to take advantage of the annual dimensional instabilities to unleash a horde of demons in Rutland, Vermont that very night. The team agrees to investigate.
Not long after, Felix Faust arrives in Rutland, and is drawn to Tom Fagan’s house when he senses Loki’s magical energies. He sequesters himself in a small room on the house’s top floor and begins preparing himself for the incantations he will perform once the sun goes down. Loki also senses Faust’s presence, and realizes he can take advantage of whatever chaos this interloper may cause.
During the afternoon, four friends from New York City -- Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, and his wife Glynis Wein -- lose their muffler while driving Steve’s dilapidated car to Rutland for the parade. Gerry mentions having had problems in Rutland the year before as well.
Meanwhile, Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman spend the entire afternoon searching the area of Rutland for anything out of the ordinary, but have no success since the forces of evil are all laying low until nightfall.
At dusk, Hank McCoy, the former member of the X-Men known as the Beast, and his ex-girlfriend Vera Cantor find themselves stranded several miles west of town. Hank has recently mutated further into a somewhat ape-like form with blue-black fur, but has managed to disguise himself in order to appear human. Vera has enlisted his aid for a looming crisis in Canada, though she has yet to reveal any details, and they were en route to Quebec when Vera’s car broke down. After failing to flag down any passing vehicles, Hank resorts to desperate measures. Out of sight of Vera, he sheds his disguise and lopes across the road as the next car approaches, making sure he is seen. The car happens to be the one bringing Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis to Rutland. Steve slams on the brakes, and, freaked out by the strange apparition, they get out to have a look. Hank quickly puts his disguise back on, gets Vera, and flags down the four New Yorkers before they can get underway again. The quartet agrees to give the hapless couple a ride into town.
As they drive off, a dimensional portal opens, depositing the Juggernaut onto the road. However, before he can go anywhere, he is sucked back into the Crimson Cosmos, where he has been trapped for a year and a half. Unknown to the Juggernaut, the phenomenon is caused by the incantations of the cult of Dormammu, who are beginning their long ritual high up on Bald Mountain. Their spells further weaken the boundaries between dimensions, allowing the Juggernaut to materialize briefly in the vicinity of his hated enemy, Hank McCoy.
Soon, the four New Yorkers, along with Hank and Vera, arrive at their motel in Rutland. Hank and Vera thank them for their kindness, then go into town to find a restaurant. Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis check into the motel and stow their luggage in their rooms. After getting cleaned up, Glynis puts on her Supergirl costume, but Len’s costume rips when he’s putting it on, so the guys elect to keep wearing their regular clothes instead. The four friends walk up to the start of the parade route to check out the preparations and enjoy the carnival atmosphere. After a little while, they decide to head out to Tom Fagan’s place, as he is expecting them.
Twenty minutes later, Steve’s noisy car rumbles up to Tom’s house, and their host greets them at the door in his Batman costume. The four friends also detect the subtle change in Tom’s demeanor caused by Loki’s spell. He tells them that everyone is just getting ready to leave for the parade. Just then, the real Batman appears, leading the rest of the JLA to Tom’s house. Knowing from the previous Halloween Parade that Tom is one of the event’s organizers, Batman decides to let Tom know about their ongoing investigation. Tom is thrilled to have actual superheroes attending the parade, and asks them to ride on his float. Not seeing any harm in it, the Justice League agrees to participate. The heroes then head into town, but before Tom leaves his house, Loki checks in with his thrall to make sure that everything proceeds apace. Sensing that Thor is approaching, Loki sends the Absorbing Man out into the woods to ambush the thunder god when he arrives.
Tom rides into town with Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis. On the way, they ask if Hank and Vera can come to the party later, and Tom is happy to extend them an invitation. At that moment, Hank and Vera are having dinner at a restaurant on Main Street, unaware that the Juggernaut briefly rematerializes in the alley behind the building. The Juggernaut sees the parade getting ready to start, but before he can leave the alley, he is drawn back into the Crimson Cosmos.
As the Halloween Parade begins, Clea, Wong, Namor, and Bruce Banner arrive in Rutland, having made the journey by bus. They immediately notice the eerie red glow bathing the mountaintop and head out of town to investigate. Meanwhile, back at Tom’s house, Felix Faust begins his own sorcerous ritual, drawing demonic energies into the woods surrounding the town.
Just then, Thor arrives in the area, having used his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, to track the Absorbing Man’s “mystic trail.” With the thunder god are his Asgardian companions Sif and Hildegarde. Thor immediately senses the evil forces that have been unleashed by Felix Faust and Dormammu’s minions. Suddenly, the Absorbing Man attacks and Thor battles him.
In town, Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis run into Hank and Vera again and tell them they are invited to Tom’s party later. However, their discussion is interrupted by the sudden materialization of the Juggernaut atop one of the parade floats. He smashes the float but then is just as suddenly drawn back into the Crimson Cosmos. However, in the confusion, Glynis has disappeared and Len, Gerry, and Steve begin a desperate search. Hank sends Vera back to the motel to get a room for them, then ducks into an alley and strips off his disguise. Knowing people will mistake his blue and furry form for a Halloween costume, the Beast sets off in search of the Juggernaut.
Glynis and Tom, along with several other parade-goers, have been mystically mesmerized by Loki and are compelled to walk through the woods to where Thor is fighting the Absorbing Man. The thunder god defeats his opponent by knocking him into Otter Creek in mid-transformation, causing the villain to absorb the properties of the water and be washed away with the current. Thor scarcely has time to catch his breath before Loki reveals himself, claiming he will use the dimensional chaos to supercharge his magic and thereby destroy Thor once and for all.
Loki first sics Tom’s dogs on Thor, having magically transformed them into slavering monsters. When Thor summons a vortex of wind to carry the canines away, Loki turns to his human victims, draining their life-forces to power the fearsome Fire-Sword. Thor is outraged and attacks his brother, but the duel does not go well for the thunder god. Watching from nearby, Sif and Hildegarde know they are honor-bound not to interfere in Thor’s fight.
Meanwhile, in the woods on the opposite side of town, the Beast encounters the Juggernaut when he rematerializes. The Juggernaut recognizes his old foe despite his mutated appearance, and their battle leads them up to Chittenden Reservoir, where the Juggernaut smashes a power station. However, the Beast soon loses his enemy when the Juggernaut’s massive frame keeps slipping on the loose dirt and rocks of the forest. The former X-Man then heads back towards town.
As Sif and Hildegarde watch Loki gaining the upper hand in the battle, they are suddenly visited by the Norn Queen Karnilla, who offers to use her magic to save Thor’s life if Sif will agree to help her track down her lost love Balder the Brave. Sif initially refuses the deal, but then Loki manages to separate Thor from his enchanted hammer, gloating that he need only hold Thor off for 60 seconds to then be able to kill him in his mortal guise as Dr. Donald Blake. Panic-stricken, Sif agrees to Karnilla’s terms, and so the sorceress immediately conjures up a fierce thunderstorm with driving rain that distracts Loki, allowing Thor to retrieve his hammer in the nick of time. Instantly, Thor calls down lightning to strike Loki, destroying the Fire-Sword and releasing those in Loki’s thrall. Loki himself has suddenly been struck blind, and stumbles off into the woods, losing Thor in the darkness. Giving up the search, Thor meets up with Hildegarde, who tells him Sif has gone off with Karnilla. Angered by this turn of events, the two Asgardians return to New York.
Glynis, Tom, and Loki’s other victims wander back into town with no memory of what has happened to them. Glynis soon meets up with Len, Gerry, and Steve again, to their great relief. Then the four friends decide to find a place to get something to eat.
Clea, Wong, Namor, and Bruce Banner climb Bald Mountain to find the black rite is underway. A dimensional portal has already been opened and Clea is horrified to see Dormammu lurking within. Unfortunately, they are discovered by the cult members, of whom there are at least fifty, and while some continue the ritual, others attack the intruders. Banner quickly turns into the Hulk and he and the Sub-Mariner batter the horde of cultists. Before Dormammu can commandeer his host body, though, Doctor Strange’s astral form emerges from Wong and re-enters his own physical form. Strange then battles Dormammu in the dimensional gateway, and the mystic forces they unleash against each other shake the mountain to its very foundations. The people on the streets of Rutland fear the mountain is erupting like a volcano.
There is a sudden landslide that wipes out the cult. The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner manage to protect Clea and Wong until Doctor Strange emerges from the collapsing portal. His power dampened by his exposure to the earth’s environment, Dormammu has decided to retreat, thus freeing Strange to carry Clea and Wong aloft with his Cloak of Levitation. The Hulk and Namor are caught in the final avalanche, but they manage to survive and dig themselves out. Grateful for his friends, Doctor Strange takes Clea and Wong back to the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York while the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk go their separate ways.
Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis are hanging out at a restaurant in town, where they have been for over an hour waiting for repairs to be completed on the floats wrecked by the Juggernaut. Glynis, still wearing her Supergirl costume, goes to the bathroom, but when she has not returned 20 minutes later, the guys become concerned. They ask a waitress to check the ladies’ room for them, only to discover that Glynis has vanished once again. Len is worried, but Gerry promises they will find her.
Glynis has been ensorcelled a second time, now by Felix Faust to serve as one of the host bodies for his demon horde. His spells also cause the Justice League, who are standing on one of the floats going down Main Street, to see all the other floats vanish into thin air, with the throng of spectators standing in a glassy-eyed trance. Baffled, the superheroes decide to pair off and canvas the area for the missing floats.
In the woods outside of town, Flash and Hawkman encounter a trio of costumed parade-goers who have been possessed by Faust’s demons. The possession has endowed the victims with superhuman powers to match their costumes. Joined by “Adam Strange” and “Captain America,” Glynis uses the powers of Supergirl to defeat the heroes. Flash and Hawkman collapse to the ground, feeling their life-force ebbing. Glynis and the two men are then teleported away to another part of the woods, where the demons plan to open a portal to their own dimension so they can invade the earth in their true forms. However, the Phantom Stranger appears and removes bits from the costumes of the fallen heroes, in preparation for performing some magic of his own.
Elsewhere in the woods, Batman and Green Lantern are likewise defeated by “Robin,” “Spider-Man,” and “Thor,” while Superman and Green Arrow are overcome by “Captain Marvel” and the 1940s “Flash.” From his hideout, Felix Faust exults over his easy victory, but the Phantom Stranger visits each of the dying heroes in turn to collect his token.
Meanwhile, Len, Gerry, and Steve search frantically for Glynis around town, then decide to go back to Tom Fagan’s house to look for her there. They are unaware that the Beast is very nearby, collecting his disguise from the alley where he left it, and is himself planning to make his way to Tom’s place, hoping to meet up with Vera there. Loki, having stumbled blindly through the woods, also draws near Tom’s house, following the mystic emanations from Felix Faust’s spellcasting. They all arrive at Tom’s house just minutes before midnight.
Hank McCoy enters first to find the party is already in full-swing. He passes Roy and Jeanie Thomas while looking for Vera. Suddenly, though, the Juggernaut smashes through the wall to continue his relentless pursuit of the Beast. Hank runs upstairs to lead him away from the other guests. He goes all the way up to the attic with the Juggernaut following close behind. In a desperate gamble, Hank removes his human-looking mask and huddles up on the floor, hoping to take the Juggernaut by surprise. When the villain enters the dimly-lit room, the Beast suddenly spins around and snarls. The Juggernaut draws back, startled, only for an instant, but it is enough for the Beast to leap on him and tear off his magic helmet. The Juggernaut falls backwards down the stairs to the second-floor landing, feeling his superhuman strength suddenly diminishing. At that moment, the clock strikes midnight.
Simultaneously, the Phantom Stranger has assembled the dying members of the Justice League at the same intersection where Old Mistress Sarah made her predictions 24 hours earlier. As the church bells toll midnight once again, the Phantom Stranger reads off the names of the heroes while tossing the items he had collected from each of their costumes. He thus breaks the spell of imminent death, allowing the Justice League to revive.
The spell broken, Faust’s demons are driven out of their host bodies, which had gathered not far from Tom Fagan’s house. Felix Faust curses his failure and, hearing the commotion in the hall, decides to make good his escape before he is discovered. Just as Len, Gerry, and Steve come upstairs to look for Glynis, they pass the Juggernaut on the landing, with the Beast in hot pursuit. Making it outside, the Juggernaut tries to steal Steve’s car, but it won’t start. The Beast leaps at him, knocking him out of the passenger-side door. They tumble into Tom’s yard and continue their brawl.
Len, Gerry, and Steve enter the room where Felix Faust has been hiding, seeing the wizard about to jump out the window. They initially assume he is trying to commit suicide, but then Faust levitates down and steals Steve’s car, making the engine start with the last of his fading sorcerous might. As the car roars away, the portal to the Crimson Cosmos opens above the weakened Juggernaut and he is drawn back into his extradimensional prison.
Meanwhile, Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Hawkman have rushed to the scene to battle Faust’s demons before they can assume new host bodies. Glynis and the others awaken from their trance, though dazed, and catch glimpses of the battle as they head for the lights of Tom Fagan’s house. The Justice League makes short work of the demons and manages to drive them back through the doorway to their home dimension before it collapses.
As the Beast stands brooding in the darkness, Glynis wanders up to meet the three guys, who are watching helplessly as Faust drives off in their car. Len asks her where she was, but her memories are too scrambled to give a clear answer, though she thinks she saw some kind of battle raging in the woods. Gerry is mad, but Glynis puts him down for making such a big deal out of everything. Suddenly, Loki comes running out of the trees toward the fleeing car, trying desperately to reach this alien sorcerer before he disappears. To the horror of the four New Yorkers, Loki misses the car and runs right off a cliff. However, before Loki can hit the ground at the bottom of the gorge, he is teleported away by Dormammu, who has just conceived of a new plan of conquest. Assuming Loki to have been one of Tom’s costumed guests, the four friends immediately have their host call the Rutland police.
Not far down the road, Felix Faust is pulled over by the police for his missing muffler. Since he is wanted for breaking out of jail, the officers take him into custody.
With nothing left to sustain it, the dimensional convergence collapses about ten minutes after midnight and the two parallel Rutlands naturally disentangle themselves. In one world, the Beast slowly makes his way back to the motel to meet up with Vera, and in the morning they buy a car from a local farmer to continue their journey north into Canada. In the other world, the Justice League extends an offer of membership to the Phantom Stranger, but he elects to merely disappear. The teammates then return to their orbiting satellite headquarters to file their reports on the mission.
In both worlds, the Rutland police comb the gorge by Tom Fagan’s house in the morning for any sign of a body, and when none is found, the baffled Steve, Gerry, Len, and Glynis are let off with a warning for filing a false report. Steve then has the lost muffler replaced and the quartet drives back to New York City. After hearing the shocking news that 50 members of their community were killed in a landslide on Bald Mountain last night, Tom Fagan makes arrangements to have the gaping hole in the side of his house repaired before winter sets in. He also begins making plans for next year’s Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade.