Mummies I'd Like to Film: Here are the important dates in pop culture mummies

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

With the release of The Mummy on June 9, Universal launches its “Dark Universe” – a series of inter-connected movies featuring classic monsters. That’s reason enough to look at these Important Dates in Mummy History:

* May 22, 1819: The city of Memphis, Tennessee, is founded by future president Andrew Jackson and two other guys, named after the famous city in Egypt. Memphis currently has a pyramid and a statue of Ramesses, but no mummies … yet. There should be a lot of angry ghosts around, from all the slaughtered Chickasaws who used to live there.

* 1882: England declares Egypt a protectorate, and immediately starts swiping everything that isn’t nailed down. (Hey, stuff needed protection from thieves, right?) Artifacts like mummies and “Cleopatra’s Needle” obelisks – three are shipped to London, New York and Paris, where they still stand – ignite a public fascination with all things Egyptian.

* 1903: Bram Stoker (yes, the Dracula guy) cashes in on Egyptophila with The Jewel of Seven Stars, a novel which not only involves the mummy of an Egyptian queen, but also the mummy of an Egyptian cat. The mummy is that of “Queen Tera,” a fictional character believed to be based on Queen Hatshepsut, who reigned from 1479 to 1458 BC.

* 1922: Howard Carter discovers the tomb of Tutankhamen, and everybody associated with the archaeological expedition immediately dies of unknown causes. OK, that’s not true. Carter’s canary and a couple of old people died, and newspapers played up a “Curse of the Pharaohs” angle, which – combined with the discovery of the tomb itself – sets off another round of Egyptomania.

* 1932: Universal releases The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff as the ancient Egyptian Imhotep, who is mummified alive for sacrilege, and brought to life by the Scroll of Thoth when his tomb is discovered. Imhotep escapes, and – masquerading as a modern Egyptian – searches Cairo for the reincarnation of his girlfriend (as you do). The goddess Isis puts an end to his shenanigans.

* 1939: The Three Stooges go to Egypt to find the remains of King Rootin-Tootin in the short film We Want Our Mummy. Alleged madcap antics ensue. The trio indulge in more eye-poking and face-slapping in ancient Egypt for Mummy’s Dummies (1948).

* 1940: Captain Marvel (Fawcett Comics), Dr. Fate (National Allied Publications) and Hawkman (All-American Comics) make their first appearance. The three characters all have roots in ancient Egypt (Captain Marvel through the wizard Shazam), meaning mummies are an occupational hazard.

* 1940: Another mummy, this one named Kharis, comes to life in Universal’s The Mummy’s Hand and also searches for love. (You’d think, after 3,000 years, a mummy’s first concern would be a nice meal.) This one gets immolated by an outraged boyfriend, but somehow returns for three more movies. Tom Tyler (The Adventures of Captain Marvel) plays the first Kharis, then hands the bandages to Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man) for the sequels.

* 1955: Abbott and Costello meet The Mummy in, of course, Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy. The comedians had already met Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde, “The Killer, Boris Karloff” and The Wolfman. So really, this was just completing the set.

* 1959: Hammer Films releases The Mummy, which cobbles together the concepts of all the 1940s movies about Kharis. The film stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, who had put Hammer on the map with Dracula and Frankenstein revivals, and brought with them what Hammer historian Marcus Hearn calls the “sex and death formula” of those movies. Another big change: Kharis isn’t the laughably slow-moving mummy of the Universal films, but instead what Hearn calls “a ruthless, neck-breaking serial killer” and Lee considers “a bandaged juggernaut.” It’s a success, spawning three sequels – one of which (Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb) gets around to adapting Stoker’s Seven Stars novel.

* 1964: A new Blue Beetle (there have been four distinct versions) debuts at Charlton Comics, this one powered by a mystical scarab from ancient Egypt. He fights “The Giant Mummy Who Was Not Dead” in his first adventure. Sadly, that is the only giant mummy on our list.


Copyright Marvel Entertainment Inc.

N’Kantu the Living Mummy made his debut at Marvel Comics in Supernatural Thrillers #5. Art by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia.

* 1973: Marvel Comics debuts “The Living Mummy,” who stars in 10 issues of Supernatural Thrillers before being relegated to supporting-character status. N’Kantu of the fictional Swarili tribe is enslaved by Egyptians to help build pyramids, but leads a failed slave rebellion instead. His punishment, which seems overly harsh to me, is to be wrapped in bandages, have his blood replaced by a mysterious alchemical preservative and entombed for 3,000 years. Currently N’Kantu is a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s monsters-only “Howling Commandos,” and could shamble into a Marvel movie or TV show any time now.

* April 22, 1978: Steve Martin performs King Tut on Saturday Night Live, backed up by the Toot Uncommons (actually the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). The tune features the line “buried in his jammies,” referencing mummy wrappings, which gives me an excuse to include it here. The song peaks at No. 17 on the Billboard chart.

* September, 1986: The Bangles release Walk Like an Egyptian, which hits No. 1 on the Billboard chart for four months. There are no direct mummy references here – I just like the song.

* 1999: Imhotep gets a reboot in a new The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser as a swashbuckling adventurer and Rachel Weisz as an Egyptologist in the 1920s. More Indiana Jones than Boris Karloff, The Mummy is nevertheless a hit and spawns two sequels. The Mummy Returns (2001) lives up to its name, but The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) gives us a different mummy, this one from China.

* 2002: The Scorpion King, stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and gives the back story on a character who appears in The Mummy Returns. It’s set 5,000 years ago, and spawns three direct-to-DVD sequels (which, as you might guess, don’t star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

Copyright Hammer Comics

In The Mummy: Palimpsest, the real monsters are the people who use human sacrifice to achieve immortality. Art by John McCrea.

* December, 2016: Hammer Comics publishes The Mummy: Palimpsest, a five-issue miniseries which involves men abusing live girls and mummy girls alike in rituals to extend life. Our heroine is a modern girl who is possessed by the ancient Egyptian priestess Nebetah, whose spirit is trapped in the afterlife and whose mummy is the source of immortality. The girls team up to put an end to “the Sect of Anubis” and the really old boys who are its members.


Copyright Universal Pictures

Sofia Boutella stars as the title character in The Mummy.

* June 9, 2017: The Mummy stars Tom Cruise, with Sofia Boutella (Kingsman, Star Trek Beyond) as our new Mummy dearest. The Dark Universe movies will also include Russell Crowe  as Dr. Henry Jekyll and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. The second in the series, Bride of Frankenstein, is due in 2019.

Did I miss your favorite mummy? Send me an e-parchment at the address below.

Reach Captain Comics by email (, the Internet (, Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).

Views: 149

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who jumped on the mummy bandwagon with the serial "Pyramids of Mars" (first aired October 25 - November 15, 1975), starring the inimitable Tom Baker as the itinerant Time Lord's fourth incarnation, accompanied by the late, great Elisabeth Sladen as his best friend, Sarah Jane Smith.

The admittedly somewhat risible mummies of "Pyramids of Mars"

 The series would re-visit the mummy story many years later in the stand-alone story "Mummy on the Orient Express" (first aired October 11, 2014), starring the cantankerous Peter Capaldi as the Doctor's twelfth (or thirteenth, or fourteenth - it's complicated) incarnation, and Jenna Coleman as the Doctor's lovely-but-mendacious companion, Clara Oswald.  Both stories are personal favorites of mine.

The somewhat more effective space train riding mummy

“Universal launches its “Dark Universe” – a series of inter-connected movies featuring classic monsters.”

I did not know that but I Googled it. Thanks!

“Alleged madcap antics ensue.”

“Alleged”? Them’s fightin’ words in some parts.

“(You’d think, after 3,000 years, a mummy’s first concern would be a nice meal.)”

Or a potty break.

“Sadly, that is the only giant mummy on our list.”

There’s Mummex. (Just sayin’.)

“Imhotep gets a reboot in a new The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser as a swashbuckling adventurer and Rachel Weisz as an Egyptologist in the 1920s.”

Tracy and I went to see that on our “zeroeth” date.

“Did I miss your favorite mummy?”

Not my favorite, but (since you asked) Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned was also a comic book series.

In case you don’t know, Craig Yoe will soon release a hardcover collection of mummie stories. It was solicited for release today, but it didn’t ship to my LCS. With the movie coming out this Friday, I’ll bet the collection will ship next week.

You really can't have too many giant mummies.

“(You’d think, after 3,000 years, a mummy’s first concern would be a nice meal.)”

Or a potty break.

"Eww! Why is there dust all over the toilet?"

The movie Bubba-hotep actually addressed the matter of mummy potty breaks, and related graffiti.  Ibis the Invincible actually debuted as a mummy in Whiz Comics #2, along side the aforementioned Captain Marvel.  On the other hand, while Dr. Fate was clearly inspired by the Mummy movie, originally, he, like Sargon the Sorcerer, traced his roots to ancient Mesopotamia, and didn't really reference much of anything Egyptian until that one issue of First Issue Special in the 1970s, where Walt Simonson up-graded the tiny lightning bolts that the character had previously used to cast his spells for the more familiar ankh-bolts he's used ever sense.  There were at least giant-ish mummies in one of the Fleischer Superman cartoons, but I'm blanking on the title, altho it most likely had either or both the word "mummies" and/or "tomb" in it.

That episode is "The Mummy Strikes."

Here's a still from the Jonny Quest episode "The Curse of Anubis"

A few years ago I went looking online for information about the history of mummy stories. The best links I found were this Encyclopedia of Fantasy article ; the article on mummies in popular culture here ; a horror message board thread, here ; and an article about the background to the Karloff film called "THE MUMMY in context", here .

Has anyone seen The Mummy?

I haven't, and have no plans to. I get all the action/adventure I need elsewhere, so what I wanted from Universal's "Dark Universe" wasn't a recapitulation of those types of movies, but more on the order of what made those original Universal movies so much fun: horror, and a lot of atmosphere. If I want an Indiana Jones-type Mummy movie, they already made those with Brendan Fraser.

And, for God's sake, what the heck is Tom Cruise doing in The Mummy? Does Universal think he is still some kind of draw? The last Cruise movie I saw was, I think, War of the Worlds -- and I enjoyed that movie, but despite his presence, not because of it.

I honestly don't understand why Universal didn't telepathically familiarize themselves with my expectations, and conform their movies to my taste. That was a serious oversight on their part, and don't think I'll forgive them any time soon.

Anyway, did anyone see it? Comments?

Captain Comics said:

I honestly don't understand why Universal didn't telepathically familiarize themselves with my expectations, and conform their movies to my taste. That was a serious oversight on their part, and don't think I'll forgive them any time soon.

bwah ha ha photo bwah.gif

If I see it, it will be on rental disk or streaming down the road. If I hear it is universally despised, I won't even do that. Apparently there is a Dr. Jekyll character in it, so their Dark Universe is a dark crossover. 

Reply to Discussion



No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.









© 2018   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service