When I was 10 years old, my mom got me a subscription to a new series DC was publishing: The Demon. Part of the deal was that the first three issues came packaged and delivered together along with the child-appropriate, folded-up poster pictured above. Before it was a poster, however, it was a full-page ad in the back of a Batman comic, and my 10-year-old brain assumed that Jason Blood was the (then) recently-deceased Jason Todd in the afterlife, probably with amnesia.
Turns out Blood and the Demon Etrigan were Jack Kirby creations dating back to the seventies. Though I was mildly disappointed to find out the murderous Todd hadn’t been sent to hell after his demise in 1989’s A Death in the Family, Alan Grant’s scripting and Val Semeiks’s gorgeous artwork created a pretty captivating world to escape into, even if it was an escape into eternal damnation. Check out these highlights from The Demon #2:
A hint of Dick Tracy and the promise of Batman! Questionable violence and sexual material in a non-mature-rated comic! Etrigan expressing joy at finding his mother even as she’s about to make him her dinner! Every issue was like this, pure story from cover to cover. Alan Grant was on fire those days, having spent the previous two years crafting some of Batman’s most memorable one-shots in Detective Comics (he continued to work on Bat-related titles for almost a decade afterward).
Etrigan had his own 16-issue monthly series in 1972 and a four-issue miniseries in 1987 prior to The Demon‘s 1990 debut.
He also did guest spots in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, Blue Devil, Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Brave and the Bold, Millennium, and a slew of other big-name DC titles:
The Demon ran for five years, from 1990 to 1995, after which Etrigan made fleeting appearances in various DC titles until 2005’s starring role in the short-lived Blood of the Demon. He’s currently appearing in the popular New 52 title Demon Knights.
I’d argue pretty adamantly that Grant’s version of the character is the definitive version of the character. He had the rhyming speech patterns, the book had an overall sardonic tone, and the supporting cast was a colorful mix of men-turned-pillows (Harry Matthews), grinning psychopaths (Tenzin Wyatt), murderous children and their equally murderous kittens (Klarion and Teekl), and furry pink creatures with hearts of gold (Thing-That-Cannot-Die):
The version of Etrigan currently appearing in Demon Knights still has the yellow skin, the horns, and the cape, but he now has a modern, non-rhyming speech pattern, is in a romantic relationship with Madame Xanadu, and seems, in general, a lot less demon-y than he should be. Don’t get me wrong – Demon Knights is still a pretty rad book, but the new Etrigan is a little…different.
The entire five-year, 59-issue run of The Demon wasn’t flawless. After issue #21, it seemed like Alan Grant’s interest was beginning to wane: guest writers began taking over, among them Matt Wagner, Keith Giffen, Dwayne McDuffie, Kevin Altieri, and Garth Ennis (who would introduce his popular Hitman character in The Demon‘s second annual). Grant continued to write, but the momentum was sort of lost, and after issue #39, he didn’t return.
If I had to choose a standout issue of The Demon, it’d be the War of the Gods crossover in issue #17. War of the Gods was a ridiculous Wonder Woman-centered four-issue miniseries by George Perez, and at some point in the story, the sorceress Circe kills Wonder Woman by reverting her back into clay (FYI: Wonder Woman started out as clay). The Demon #17 shows this event from a different angle, with Klarion playing an integral role in the proceedings:
She’s then transported to hell, where she has a strange encounter with the Demon and Jason Blood (who’ve switched bodies) and a few sweet moments with Thing-That-Cannot-Die, her rescuer and guide out of hell.
The first couple years of The Demon were the best, with issues #1 through #21 serving as a stellar collection of Grant’s witty scripts and Semeiks’s dynamic visuals. And what visuals they were:
Count The Demon as yet another underappreciated title that you could probably find for pretty cheap online or at your local comic store.