For Your Consideration: DC’s The Demon by Jack Kirby SC

Robert Greenberger

Robert Greenberger


by Robert Greenberger

Declining sales did something Darkseid could never manage: destroy the Fourth World. Publisher Carmine Infantino realized Jack Kirby’s interlocking quartet of titles were not catching on with readers and had to cancel Forever People and New Gods, devastating Kirby. Still, his contract called for so many pages a month so he was asked for two new books. Of course, the King already had two others in various stages of development: Kamandi and The Demon.

The Demon by Jack Kirby SC

The Demon by Jack Kirby SC


As part of DC Comics’ celebration of Kirby’s 100th birthday, they are reissuing a collection of all sixteen issues of The Demon in a 384 page softcover, the first time since 2008’s Jack Kirby’s The Demon.

The Demon was a horror book to the extent Jack Kirby could do a horror book. Despite the title character’s grotesque appearance, it was a work of power and energy and it came with a whole new Kirby mythology, this one derived from Merlin the Magician by way of King Arthur. Readers lost interest early and it was gone in eighteen issues…” wrote Mark Evanier in Kirby King of Comics.

The Demon #3

The Demon #3


As Camelot fell through Morgaine le Fay’s machinations, Merlin summoned a demon named Etrigan to serve his cause. At the end of his service, Etrigan was transformed into Jason Blood, now a seemingly immortal man. Merlin mercifully hid the dual nature from Blood, until modern times as the series opened. A renowned demonologist, he is located in Gotham City, a subtle tie to the DC Universe, although Etrigan wouldn’t cross paths with another DC character for some time after Kirby.

When drawn to Merlin’s crypt located in Moldava’s crumbling Castle Branek, Blood found a poem. “”Change! Change! Transmogrify! Free the might from fleshy mire! Boil the blood in heart of fire! Gone, gone the form of man! Rise the Demon Etrigan!” triggering the transformation and his memories. The magic alerted le Fay, who lusted for Merlin’s grimoire, the Eternity Book, setting up a recurring battle for the course of the series. Along the way, Blood was constantly fretting about losing his humanity to Etrigan while the Demon’s more vicious aspects were tempered by his human alter ego.

The Demon #7

The Demon #7


Beyond le Fay, Etrigan was challenged by numerous other occult figures including the disembodied spirit of the evil witch Galatea who takes control of a statue made in her image and animates it as a weapon. Or there’s Kamara the Fear-Monster and Somnanbula, the Dream Beast. Best remembered given subsequent appearances is Klarion the Witch Boy in his short pants, carrying his familiar, Teekl. And at one extreme there’s Baron Von Evilstein and his henchman, Igor, who seeks Etrigan for his nefarious experiments which comprised an odd three-parter.

The Demon #11

The Demon #11


Thankfully, Jason Blood didn’t have to confront evil by himself. He’s surrounded by friends, starting with Randu Singh, a psychic practitioner of the Eye of Kharma who is also a United Nations delegate emissary; cigar-smoking Kirby stand-in Harry Matthews, an advertising executive and comic foil; and finally, Glenda Marks, a blonde romantic interest, unable to fully commit to Jason given his hellish counterpart. The triumvirate allowed Kirby to provide a variety of reactions to the occult goings on along with varying who might get injured or endangered by that issue’s creepy crawly.

Visually, Kirby, the one who was normally the source of swipes, borrowed Etrigan’s horned visage from a mask worn by Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant in a 1937-38 storyline. In a tribute at Bloody Disgusting, they said, “The artwork is sublime; in attempting to do a ‘horror’ comic to suit the times his angular chunky line work adopts a more gothic, loose tone, echoing the brushwork of the Creepy and Eerie artists whilst retaining the satisfying chunkiness and bold design that characterizes all of his work.” Mike Royer’s bold inks aren’t the best fit, but it was who Kirby wanted.

The Demon #16

The Demon #16


The Demon was moody and entertaining, a rare and potent blend of horror and heroics. But the strictures placed on it kept it from building like other Kirby creations had, and it would only tread water until cancellation after sixteen issues.” Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs wrote in The Comic Book Heroes.

The series started out selling strongly, encouraging Infantino to keep Kirby on the title despite his preference for other projects in development. The resulting stories are a professional churning out thrills every thirty days, exploring a genre he tended to eschew, resulting in some very strong adventures.

Purchase

The Demon by Jack Kirby SC

Classic covers from the Grand Comics Database

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