An Analysis of the fall of the Circle of the Black Thorn

By Salvatore Cucinotta

            The first few years of the new millennium saw many great changes. It is fitting, then, that in a world where genetic predisposition is so common, a group of young heroes rises against their heritage and defy destiny.

            Any good story needs to start at the beginning: The Circle of the Black Thorn was the instrument of a group of former servitors of the Old Ones known as the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. Their exact nature has not yet been revealed, but it is known that they left this dimension in order to avoid their enemies and avoid detection. As such, the Circle of the Black Thorn acted n their stead and their front was the law firm of Wolfram and Hart (itself connected to the Red Lectroid’s front business of Yoyodyne, Weiland-Yutani and Fox Newscorp). Through this organization, they kept the most of the world, underworld and under-underworld in check, especially on the west cost, limiting the number of vigilantes that would operate, and keeping tabs of all the other cabals, societies and criminal organizations that might be a threat to their goals.

            The goals of the Circle of Black Thorn are truly hard to distinguish, as their power and influence are hard to pinpoint. Of all the secret cabals and organizations present in the Wold Newton Universe, this group has the unfortunate distinction of being completely unrecorded until after their destruction; their ability to cover their tracks was so well developed. The records database of Wolfram and Hart is claimed to have almost every bit of information on record, and their influence is claimed to reach even the President of the United States—claiming the various misfortunes the Kennedy family underwent were retribution for unpaid dues. However, such claims can rarely be taken seriously, for they may be simple boasting or over-exaggeration, failing to take into account the sheer incompetence of the average individual, or bureaucracy in general. But the point of these boasts remain the same: they have their appendages in every aspect of life they can get into. Wherever there is power to be had, they tried to reach for it.

            Their exact goal, as far as it can be deciphered, was to lull humanity into complacency, to keep everyone going through their lives and largely preventing them from making great accomplishments. With the Wold Newton event and similar happenings, they certainly had their work cut out for them. Why is uncertain as no records remain to detail their plans.

            Thought their front suffered a heavy blow towards the end of 2002 and at the start of 2003 from the entity known as “Jasmine”, the Circle endured the attack that decimated their front organization and rebuilt it stronger than ever. The Circle itself consisted of the following members:

-         Archduke Sebassis – An ancient “purebred” demon who commanded a powerful army of demonic creatures that the circle could use as minions for various tasks. Like many demon species, his kind was created by the Old Ones for their own purposes, and he continued that legacy (though the legions served him directly and not any Old One in particular). He brought his legions and influence in the demonic underworld to the Circle.

-         “Ed” – a representative of alien colonists commonly known as “The Grays”. This species kept the flow of Black Oil, the spawn of one o the early Old Ones, under control, as well as keeping tabs on the progress of the Consortium and their adversaries—ready to inform the Senior Partners on when and if they had to step in, as well as his knowledge of Interstellar Politics.

-         “Senator Helen Brucker” – A member of the Mi-Go whom the Black Thorn was grooming for a presidential election in 2008. Through the combined efforts of the Mi-Go and Black Thorn, “she” represented their political power of Circle. “She” took to surrounding herself with Vampires as her assistants and bodyguards.

-         Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder – These members can claim some Wold Newton Heritage for the group. Geoffrey’s grandmother (whose name has been lost to history) worked as a prostitute for a large portion of her early adult life. During this time, she had relations with one James Clark Wildman Sr. during his younger days in America. She became pregnant from the encounter, and gave the child the surname of who she thought the father was—or at least what she could best remember it as. Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder controlled the criminal and law-enforcement aspects of the Circle. They placed moles in nearly every police district in the United States and kept crime under their thumb for nearly 20 years.

-         Dale and Stacey Yorkes – This truly odd pair of time travelers represent the two extremes of the medium. Dale Yorkes was an intelligent, but petty thief from the 19th century who worked along side the more bloodthirsty John Leslie Stevenson when he stole H.G. Wells Time Machine. Not liking the way his relationship with Stevens was heading, he held in the background, but was intrigued by the possibilities of time travel. Eventually, though luck, perseverance, a predestination paradox and a few thefts from Well’s office, he managed to build a working Time Machine of his own. However, he was never that ambitious and used the time machine for more petty theft without really considering the greater ramifications or uses for time thefts. That is, he did not until he met “Stacey.” Stacey was a renegade Time Lord who bumped into the Yorkes family several times through her regenerations. One of her earlier Regenerations had actually conceived and gave birth to the Dale and she now felt a new attraction for him in her last regeneration. She, having lost her own method of travel, joined him on his thefts and expanded his thoughts into a different method of thievery: the selling of antiques at auction. They eventually wed, which may sound revolting to our human ears but keep in mind how drastically the genetic material of a time lord changes when they regenerate. For Stacey, it was perfectly natural, but Dale did take some time to adjust to this idea of near Oedipal desires. Together, they prevented other time travelers from interfering in the plans of the Circle. (1)

-         Gene and Alice Hayes – Unlike the previous couples, this pair of natural telepaths have little in their ancestry or history beyond their abilities that distinguishes them greatly, and that was one of their assets. This par monitored other psychic networks, monitored precognitives and kept tabs on any other natural mutations that developed. (2)

-         Victor and Janet Stein – Victor Stein can count on his distance heritage Victor Frankenstein III, when he went under the name of Dr. Stein between 1860 and 1863 in Karlsbruck—during that time, he managed to impregnate (and wed—in that order) a local girl during a lieu in his experiments. The child was, however, born after Victor was exposed. However, it was almost one hundred years later that his descendants are mentioned in any capacity, with Victor taking after his namesake with an Interest in the sciences. He was quite the Renaissance man, working in both technological and biological sciences. His wife shared both his interests and his skills, so they wed out of self-conceit. They brought their technical expertise to the Circle.(3)

-         Robert and Tina Minoru – These two dark sorcerers were once in the serves of Dr. Fu Manchu, aiding him in his own dark machinations. They lived in fear of his wrath; especially since they were closeted Christians and he had a nasty habit of executing those of the Christian faith on a whim. So, when he appeared to die at the hands of Shan-Chi, they took their chance and fled to America, severing their ties with his organization and married. The Minoru’s brought their knowledge of the dark arts to the Circle.

-         Frank and Leslie Dean – This couple were fugitive aliens using Earth as a neutral zone to sell arms to other species. Their names were taken from a statue of James Dean they saw when they first landed on earth (near the Griffith Observatory in California). Their species is largely unrepresented in the Wold Newton Universe, but related species are. They represent an intermediary in evolutionary terms between creatures such as the so-called “Colour out of Space” and the Organians. This species was sentient, and composed of “Energy” (actually, energized gas), but lacked the strange, godlike powers of the Organians. They could, however, stretch themselves in lashing, whip-like attacks, or even thrown parts of their own body to damage foes with excited gas particles. This species no longer had to suck life from other living things, but could photosynthesize for most of their energy needs. They wore small devices on their body that allowed them to pass as human and took up careers as actors. They brought their intergalactic arms dealings and knowledge of interstellar crime to the circle.

-         Izzireal – Another paranormal creature, focusing on the business aspect of the supernatural. Monitoring bargains and deals between various sentient entities.

-         Marcus Hamilton – The Liaison to the Wolf Ram and Hart, reporting back to them and informing the circle of their wants and needs. He was constructed by them to serve as their eyes and ears on earth.

The couples amongst the Circle entered into a pact around 1984 (4) to have their children succeed them in the Circle, revealing the circle to them and beginning to groom them for their place in it when they each turned 18. Alex Wilder, however, found out about the plans of the Circle three years early. Alex was a prodigy, the genes of Clark Wildman Sr. shown through in spades, and he began to wonder why his parents, for all he knew “good” people, would be apart of such an organization. Through his studies of various (stolen) texts his parents had gathered as part of the Circle, he learned about their function and of something worse: a plot by the various non-human members of the Circle to turn on their human members in a bid for more power, using their allies and progeny to restock the ‘empty’ slots.

            Alex knew he had to save his parents, but he also wanted the non-humans gone and the power they held. But he could not do it on his own—he was just a smart kid. He needed a team, so he took the budding team that the Circle was preparing—their children.

            At the next yearly gathering for various blood rights, where the children were left alone with only each other for companionship, he lead them to witness the human sacrifice conducted in the presence of “demons” by their parents, and began to reveal their various powers, though some caught him by surprise:

-         Nico Minoru stole/absorbed her mother’s magical staff: “The Staff of One”, a powerful magical artifact that allowed the conjuration of various spells, but her unskilled use of it lead her to be only able to cast a specific spell once. Being raised a Christian; it was a troubling for her to inherit dark magic.

-         Karolina Dean had her alien heritage revealed to her, though Alex had to guide her on how to best use her alien physiology.

-         Chase Stein gained none of his parents’ technical intellect, but the athletic boy settled for stealing several inventions including multi-purpose goggles and mechanical gloves capable of flame projection and manipulation.

-         Gertrude Yorkes found an emergency gift her parents had made her: a trained Juvenile, Female Venatosaurus impavidus (5) engineered to respond to the mental abilities she inherited from her Time Lord mother, and half-Time Lord father. She later gave it a nose ring for style purposes.

-         Molly Hayes was Alex’s surprise. He initially thought of the small 11 year old as useless to his plans. The others insisted they take her with them for her own protection, but he was unaware (as were her parents) that she not only inherited a small portion of her parents’ mental abilities, she had been called as a Vampire Slayer (6). Alex could not afford to pass up this opportunity, and recruited her.

Together, the six children ran away from home and hid in a spot Chase had scoped out: a cave in Bronson Canyon, where a criminal kingpin once held his secret lair back in the 30s. The villain was stopped by one of the various vigilante heroes running around at the time (given the level of destruction it sustained, it was more than likely the Spider). There, Alex trained his squad through various crime-fighting excursions, under the guise that they were thwarting their parents’ plans. The children even went so far to adopt codenames: Wilder, Sister Grimm, Lucy in the Sky, Talkback, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Bruiser. They even toyed with the idea of costumes, but only Molly ever made one--and only used it once. They spent about two weeks, as Alex would put it, “leveling up” against crooks and monsters in the LA area.

What Alex did not fully plan on was how much of their attention would be diverted because of the children’s stunt. That, combined with the “Jasmine” incident the year before, allowed the vampire Angel to infiltrate the organizations after being given the reigns to Wolfram and Hart.

The introduction of the vampire forced Alex to accelerate his plans and combine them with Angel’s – which were taking advantage of the chaos brought about by the appearance of the cyborg Mecha-King Ghidorah under the control of a self-styled Khan (7). The plan involved taking on portions of the circle separately: the children would lure their parents into a trap with Wesley Windham Pryce; Spike would take on Ed and his minions; Charles Gunn would be assigned to Senator Brucker and her Vampires; Illyria would take on Izzireal and his minions; Angel would take on Archduke Sebassis; and Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan and Lindsey McDonald would be sent after the other leaders of the Archduke’s minions. The reason Hamilton was avoided in the initial plan was the simple fact that with each incarnation of the liaison seemed to grow in power, and they did not want to see what would come next.

Both Alex and Angel kept the other children under the idea that their parents would not be killed, but simply arrested, for their own, separate purposes. On the night, the secret plans the two groups formed revealed themselves: Lorne shot Lindsey in his true mission; Angel poisoned Arch Duke Sebassis hours before heading out so he could take on Marcus Hamilton (with the aid of Angel’s son, Connor); and with the children…

Alex orchestrated the fight so that all but he and his own parents were conscious at the end of it, killing Wesley in the process. Reviving Nico and her parents, he confessed his feelings for her and offered her a spot in the Circle. Nico decided to give her answer in the form of a punched him in the jaw. Alex had prepared for this (though he hoped that she would), but did not count on Illyria arriving to check on Wesley, after succeeding in her mission. She held Wesley in her arms as he died. Nico used her distraction to revived her comrades and take back the weapons he had taken from them. After Wesley passed, Illyria turned a hand towards Alex, and in a flash of brilliant blue energy, vaporized the boy in front of the others. With that, she left to face the coming onslaught from the Senior Partners—as did the surviving members of the Runaways parents, who knew that they and their children would be executed by the Senior Partners for their failure and the loyalty they had for their progeny. 

The remaining children used their parents sacrifice and fled. Only to be picked up later by the CIALD (8), put into foster care and split up. Molly was taken in by the newly reformed Watchers Council, Gert’s Venatosaurus was taken by the government, and all but Chase were placed in Foster care. Chase used his street contacts escape protective custody. He then spent the next three months searching for Old Lace so he could free her for Gert (whom he had begun a relationship with). Once the group was fully reunited, they once again ran off. This time in a vehicle Chase’s parents had built dubbed “The Leap Frog.”

Little is currently known about what happened after they have run off for a second time, but what is known is that Karolina left earth in order to prevent a war between her people and the Founders; and they added a new member to the team: an artificially created cybernetic organism, Victor Mancha, created to infiltrate the CIALD and destroy all the costumed vigilantes on earth. This cyborg’s mother, who lent her DNA to the process, was descended from the peasant folk of La Mancha, Spain. The father was one of the greatest evils the world had ever known—El Diablo Robotico—the Robot Devil. (9)

Reports generally have them fighting crime in the Los Angeles area (though, it seems, they skim some funds from the various thieves they encounter to support themselves), they have been spotted in briefly New York.

Their current whereabouts are unknown.

(1)   See: “Travels in Time” by Loki Carbis.

(2)   Rumors abound that this couple were actually “Oddian” mutations in nature, though they certainly were followers of “Odd” John Wainright’s views of mutant superiority, this classification cannot hold due to the specialization developed by their progeny, it is unlikely that they were the exact same type of mutant. They were indeed mutants, but their mutations were not as extreme as those of a true “Oddian.”

(3)   See the MONSTAAAH Timeline for more information.

(4)   The comics of the Runaways were first published in 2002, whilst the last episode of Angel aired in 2004. The events of Runways vol. 1 occur over nearly 2 weeks, then picking up 3 months later, but published over 18 issues—over two years. The Angel timeline is taken as the more accurate date due to the existence of an item called “The Abstract”, a book that could foretell the possible future of the Circle and their enemies. This may have fallen into Brian K. Vaughan’s hands, giving him the spark to share this tale with the world. Whether or not Alex Wilder was behind this discovery remains unknown. Another reason to consider this later date is the inclusion of a video game that is clearly an analogue to City of Heroes, which was not published until 2004.

(5)   This is a subspecies of the Venatosaurus saevidicus that appear in the 2005 film of King Kong directed by Peter Jackson. We can accept this species as having existed on the island due to the immense detail that Jackson is known for, and the amount of research done by Jackson and his crew (see The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island for more details). As to the identification of the actual species, the Runaways series itself identifies this as first a Velociraptor (despite being much to large), and later a Deinonychus (despite being much to bulky). However, Old Lace is not even a Dromaeosaurids, for it lacks the rigid tail of all so-called raptors. This places Old Lace in the same genus as Venatosaurus, given that they are both Deinonychosauria without the tail supports. This likely classifies them as Troodontid offshoots of some kind. The proportion of the head to the rest of the body, and its depth also indicates that it is a Venatosaurus. The coloration indicates the subspecies due to the striped back and tan body. The large eyes and smaller size indicate that is a juvenile member, thus more easily trained, and the discussion about Old Lace in the books tells us her gender. Finally, with all the variability and unpredictability of time travel, it was far easier for the Yorkes to travel to 1930 instead of traveling millions of years in the past to get a saurian protector for their daughter that could fit in their home easily — given how most survivors were prone to gigantism. See: “Prehistoric Survivors in the Pacific” by Mark Brown for more information.

(6)   See: Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Chosen” by Joss Whedon for more information.

(7)   See: Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters for more information.

(8)   See: “Marvelous Fantastic Tales of the Wold Newton Universe: The Batman” By Dennis E. Power for more information.

(9)   El Diablo Robotico is known by many names: including Ultron, Amazo and Beelzebot. Before the year 2275 (when the Fairness of Hell act was passed), he sets up his own “Robot Hell” under Coney Island for the simple pleasure of torturing other sentient automata. See Futurama “Hell is Other Robots”.


General Sources:

Runaways Vol.1 and Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

The Colour out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft

Star Trek “Errand of Mercy” written by Gene L. Coon

Angel created by Joss Whedon

The X-Files created by Chris Carter



1791 -- Los Angeles Branch of Wolfram and Hart is founded with the ritual Sacrifice of Matthias Pavayne. (AngelHellbound”)

Late 1890s – Dale Yorkes begins his travels through time

Early 1950s – El Diablo Robotico is constructed

1984 – The Hayes, Minoru, Stein, Wilder, Dean and Yorkes families are inducted into the Circle of Blackthorn. 

1987 – Chase Stein is born

1988 – Nico Minoru, Alex Wilder and Carolina Dean are born

1989 – Gertrude Yorkes is born.

1993 – Molly Hayes is born

2001 – Victor Mancha is “constructed”

2002-2003 – The “Reign of Fire” and Jasmine’s Rise and fall in LA. Memories of those effected altered by the Circle of the Black Thorn to be remember as a violent earthquake and fanatical, short-lived cult.

April 2003 – The Minoru’s make fist contact with Angel, using Connor to destroy an old enemy of the family: the Demon Sahjhan (Angel “Origin”)

May 8th 2003 – Alex Wilder discovers the Circle of the Black Thorn and spends the next year in research/planning.

May 8-9th 2004 -- The events of Runaways vol. 1 #1-6

Mid May 2004 – Angel meets with the Runaways for the first time.

May 19th-22nd 2004 – The fall of the Circle of Blackthorn/Events of Runaways vol. 1 #13-17/Angel “Power Play”, “Not Fade Away”

September 2004 – The events of Runaways Vol. 1 #18

October – The Events of Runways Vol. 2 #1-6. Victor Mancha joins the crew after the death of his mother and apparent destruction of El Diablo Robotico.

November 2004 – Karolina Dean leaves for her home world. (Runaways Vol. 2 #7-8)

December 2004 – The Runaways are spotted in New York (Runaways Vol. 2 #9-12)