'Dire Invasion' by William Tracy in Dragon magazine issue #112 covers one of the single most evil & dangerous alien races within the Marvel Universe 'the Dire Wraiths'. Originally back in the Bronze Age I encountered the Dire Wraiths in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu as these pudgy shape shifting doughy humanoids. According to the Dire Wraith wiki entry the publication history is interesting; "The Dire Wraiths first appeared in Rom #1 (1979) and were created by Bill Mantlo and Al Milgrom. Parker Brothers created the term Dire Wraiths to promote the original ROM toy, but Marvel developed all of the backstory and art behind them. Hasbro has since taken over ownership and trademarked the name. IDW Publishing developed a new appearance and backstory distinct from what had been previously created by Marvel, who still owns those aspects."
When Dragon magazine #112 came along it charted down a path that as a comic book fan & gamer I knew only too well. The Dire Wraiths attacked Rom The Space Knight's homeworld & it's been unending war across the spectrum of Marvels various universes since then. The wiki breaks down their origins; "The Dire Wraiths are an evolutionary offshoot of the Skrulls from the Andromeda Galaxy. Like the Skrulls, the Wraiths are shapeshifters, able to take the forms of other creatures. The Wraiths were originally depicted as amorphous, cloudy, vaguely humanoid-shaped beings. However, it was eventually revealed that was a transitional form used for shapeshifting and that their true form is entirely different. The Dire Wraiths are Skrullian Deviants engineered by the starfaring Celestials. The Wraiths have both reptilian and mammal-like traits. The females lay eggs and lactate.
In-universe, most characters consider Wraiths to be sexually dimorphic, but it is stated within the comics that all Wraiths actually have the same form, but the males are so ashamed of their true form that they use their shapeshifting abilities to constantly appear in their transitory forms. The basic transitory form is stocky and troll-like in appearance, with red or brown skin, but otherwise roughly human-like in size and shape. The true form has an obese, reddish body with large, pupil-less eyes, small beaks, 'hands' that resemble small pincers and tentacles; clawed feet, and thick tails. They also have long, drill-like tongues, that they use to suck out the brains of their victims, allowing them to gain their memories. All Wraiths can copy the appearance of other beings without consuming their brains or killing them."
The male of the species is the shape shifting technological using horrors. The females of the Dire Wraith species is a whole other blac magick using ballgame as they drill into the heads of their victims & then drain the soul, memory, etc of their victims.This happened again & again in the comic books.
According to Chuck Huber 's "Year in Review". Comics Feature. No. 9. New Media Publishing article, "The Dire Wraith's have been criticized as being "evil for evil's sake" and as having a thin motivation for their actions."
Umm no the Dire Wraiths are almost evil incarnate and in later comic book series such as Earth X they are an out & out demonic race living along side the edges of Kang The Conqueror's Limbo.
Now there's been a fan suggestion that in the Marvels animated Ultimate Avengers 's universe that the Chitauri are in point of fact are an offshoot of Dire Wraiths.. Which means that at some point Nazi occultists made contact & cut deals better left to the imagination for these abominations.
So was there then an unsung 40's Space Knight on Earth foiling the plots of the Dire Wraiths?! Well in my upcoming games he or she has had an impact! 'Dire Invasion' by William Tracy in Dragon magazine issue #112 has everything a DM needs to get started on a Dire Wraith subplot to their Marvel Super Heroes rpg campaign. This is such an unsung & underrated race of enemies for the PC's to tackle.
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