Promontory Point witnessed two major battles in the space of five years, both in the town and in its immediate surroundings. The first battle took place on May 10, 1869, when a number of celebrities and noted figures, including President Ulysses S. Grant, gathered at Promontory Point to celebrate the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. As is well-known, this celebration was interrupted by an attempt by Dr. Arliss Loveless to reverse the Civil War’s ending and bring a victory to the Confederacy. Arliss, a renegade Confederate war criminal and mad scientist, had constructed a massive, mechanical, steam-powered tarantula vehicle which he intended to use to destroy the United States’ army and place himself in power. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Secret Service agents James Douglas Henry and Barton Swift, Loveless’ plans were defeated, the tarantula being lured into a nearby canyon and blown up.
The wreckage of the mechanical tarantula, however, seems never to have been dealt with. Neither the local newspapers nor the files of the Secret Service (those that are not Classified and can be acquired under the Freedom of Information Act) describe an effort by the government to clean up what was left of the tarantula and take it back to Washington for further study, and although this sort of information might have been kept out of the papers due to its delicate nature the movement of large numbers of troops–the number necessary to cart away the amount of wreckage the tarantula would produce–could not be entirely hidden. And yet it has, which leaves us with the conclusion that the government felt that the wreckage, hidden as it was in the depths of the canyon, would pose no danger to anyone. In this they were mistaken, as we shall see.
The second major battle at Promontory Point took place in October, 1873. In September of that year, as mentioned above, the “Big Bonanza” had been struck in Davidson Mountain, near Virginia City in the Nevada Territory. The Bonanza was the single largest lode of gold and silver in mining history, and the news of it had spread at the speed of rumor, bringing about a massive population shift of miners and accompanying men and women, all headed towards Virginia City.
Within a week of the strike a large number of men began stopping off at Promontory Point, an otherwise insignificant stop on the line, and riding off to the north, in the direction of the canyon in which the tarantula machine had fallen. A month later, their preparations complete, they unveiled their craft, an armed and armored dirigible, seemingly constructed from the remnants of the mechanical tarantula, and steered it for the north. Their intent was to sack Virginia City and loot the town. Unfortunately for them, the bounty hunter Jonah Hex (descendant, you will recall, of Peter Simpson) was in the area, collecting on a bounty, and single-handedly stopped the men, also seeing to the destruction of the dirigible, which crash-landed in the canyon it had been constructed in–the same canyon in which the tarantula machine had been destroyed.
A fictionalized account of this incident appeared in a television cartoon in 1995. The cartoon took liberties with several facts, placing the incident in 1869 at the completion of the railroad, something obviously impossible. Likewise, the cartoon (based on an updating of the life of the 1940s crimefighter The Batman) laid the blame for the scheme on the son of “Ra’s Al Ghul,” an immortal nemesis of the Batman. Hex is supposed to have dueled with this relative and defeated him. The writers of this cartoon, who presumably were using the Ned Buntline account of the battle as their source, were wrong in several respects (as may have been their intent) but did, perhaps unknowingly, get one thing right: the figure that “Ra’s Al Ghul” was based upon was involved–but directly, rather than through a relative.
“Ra’s Al Ghul,” for those whose tastes run higher than poorly written, badly illustrated, and cheaply published comic books, is the long-lived enemy of The Batman, someone who uses the chemical bath known as “The Lazarus Pit” to bring himself back to life keep himself eternal. “Ra’s” has, in the comics, been around for centuries, and is devoted to restoring the “ecological balance of the planet” by wiping out most of humanity. This is, of course, fiction; the published accounts of the real Batman contain no such figure.
However. MN’s researches have turned up evidence (scanty, it must be admitted) of the involvement of another figure in the 1873 incident, one that would explain the use of “Ra’s Al Ghul.”
The figure seen dueling with Jonah Hex on the deck of the dirigible just before it crashed was burly and bearded. He was in charge of the operation and was capable of moving large amounts of men and capital across the United States with relative ease. He was also physically capable of surviving the crash of the dirigible, as witnessed by the locals of Promontory Point. This description matches that of another figure, one who clashed various heroes over fifty years later in the South Pacific. This man, whose name remains undiscovered, was the source for the fictional character “Vandal Savage.”
What is more, this figure has a surprisingly direct connection with the Wold Newton Family. To repeat his personal characteristics: he is long-lived to the point of immortality, physically strong, well-muscled, large, bearded, of average height and having a primitive and brutal face. This description matches that of both the legendary immortal conqueror "Kane" and his descendants, the members of the Rutherford family.
This obviously begs several questions.
It is remotely conceivable that Kane somehow became, in the modern era,
the source for both “Vandal Savage” and “Ra’s Al Ghul,” but there is scant
evidence that "Kane" survived into the modern day. We must therefore consider
the possibility that Kane was the ancestor of the man that modern comic
book writers called both “Vandal Savage” and “Ra’s Al Ghul.” Further investigation
into this matter is obviously called for.
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The 19th Century
Appendices and Bibliography