For Your Consideration: DC’s The Demon: From the Darkness

The Demon: From the Darkness

The Demon: From the Darkness

by Robert Greenberger

Jack Kirby didn’t often visit the supernatural world and is really known for only two stretches into these realms. First, there was his work with Joe Simon in producing Black Magic back in the 1950s and then came his memorable run on The Demon, giving DC Comics Etrigan, a demon conjured by Merlin from Hell during the last days of Camelot. Even the powerful creature couldn’t stop an era from ending so he bound the powerful force to a mortal, Jason Blood, and set him upon the world.

Even since that initial eighteen issue run, now available as Jack Kirby’s The Demon Omnibus, the character has been a mainstay, used and abused by countless creators ever since and he continues to play his part in the New 52’s Demon Knights. Along the way, though, there have been some truly remarkable interpretations, both in terms of story and art. One of the best yet least remembered was Matt Wagner’s 1987 miniseries, which is finally being collected in The Demon: From the Darkness. Wisely, the four issues are here along with the one-off fill-in Wagner produced in 1992 for issue #22 of the subsequent ongoing series.

At the time, Wagner was making a name for himself through his popular Grendel character, first published by Comico. He followed that up with my personal favorite, Mage, a mystical tale of Kevin Matchstick who wielded emerald energies in the name of justice. The phrase “Magic is Green” is one of the hallmarks of the 1980s. It made sense then, for Editor Len Wein to reach out to Wagner and encourage him to make his DC debut with a series based on the character, who had gained a new appreciation among readers after Alan Moore’s handling of him in Saga of the Swamp Thing.

Demon #1

Demon #1

As Julian Darius of Sequart has written of the miniseries, “In fact, its tone is closer to the later series Hellblazer than to Jack Kirby’s original issues.

“This more serious depiction of the Demon also appeared in Swamp Thing after Moore’s departure, in the fourth issue of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and in Gaiman’s Books of Magic.

“During this time, however, the Demon also appeared in more mainstream super-hero titles, where he was treated a bit more conventionally. This version of the Demon offered a blend of the more serious magical elements, introduced by Moore and Wagner, with an ability to embrace the fun and even the silliness of the character.”

As ever, Blood wanted to be rid of his deadly alter ego and the story sent him in search of Merlin’s spirit and a cure. Wagner explored the problems in lifting a centuries’ old curse and the rules of the occult so it became a journey of exploration. The demon’s family tree is revealed and the actions they take have dire consequences for those Blood calls friends (his supporting cast has always been one of the more interesting from that era). And there are forces at work that don’t want the two separated, especially if it means Etrigan would be free to roam the mortal realm.

The final installment tells of a witch enlisting Etrigan to spit hellfire at a rival’s sow. Of course, it’s never that simple.

Demon #4

Demon #4

The Demon has been an uneasy entry into the DC Universe and people never seem to know what to do with him. In part, Wagner’s miniseries languished for some time before it finally was completed and scheduled in the aftermath of the Crisis on Infinite Earths and it says something that Etrigan’s interpretation by John Byrne in Action Comics #598, the appearance prior to the miniseries’ release, and his subsequent arrival in other titles is inconsistent before Alan Grant got his hands on him and codified the Moore/Wagner interpretation for the next decade, beginning, in of all places, Action Comics Weekly.

As a result, this miniseries will be a rediscovered gem for readers and for fans of Wagner’s art, ably embellished by Art Nichols.


The Demon: From the Darkness SC

Classic comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.


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